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Herbert Matter Swiss tourism poster 1934

Page history last edited by Blair 12 years, 11 months ago


 The Art Piece

Herbert Matter (1907-1984) created the 1934 Swiss tourism poster and was instrumental in creating posters which used a photomontage effect whereas multiple photo's would be edited onto one final production piece.  This new "image of images" was then photographed into a seamless picture for poster use.  "Before color photography, Matter who was known as a darkroom perfectionist who could achieve a freshness and harmony in his colors and photographic surfaces by dyeing various elements photo-chemically." [1]


 Prior to returning to Switzerland in the 1934, Matter was a student at the Académie de l'Art Moderne (ca 1928/29). His teachers included painter, sculptor, filmmaker  Fernand Léger and Amédé Ozenfant.  Ozenfant and Le Corbusier wrote La Peinture moderne in 1925, and in 1928 Ozenfant published Art, which was later released in 1931 as The Foundations of Modern Art in 1931.  Ozenfant's views on Purism are a main focus of this book.  Matter was being trained in many disciplines crossing photography, graphic design, and typography.


The art of photomontage had its roots in Berlin after the First World War whereas a group known as Dada lead by John Heartfeld and George Grosz were experimenting with new art forms without using paint for art.  "Matter’s advanced techniques in graphic design and photography became part of a new visual narrative that began in the 1930s, which have since evolved into familiar design idioms such as overprinting—where an image extends beyond the frame—and the bold use of color, size, and placement in typography. Such techniques often characterize both pre-war European Modernism and the post-war expression of that movement in the United States." [2] 



Influences on Design - Swiss Style

" Journalistic, imaginative and manipulative photography were revolutionary influences, and Matter, long-enamored with the camera, began to experiment with the Rollei as both a design tool and an expressive form—a relationship that never ended. Inspired by the work of El Lissitzky and Man Ray, Matter was intrigued by photograms, as well as the magic of collage and montage—both were favored modes. In 1929, his entry into graphic design was completed when he was hired as a designer and photographer for the legendary Deberny and Piegnot type foundry. There he learned the nuances of fine typography, while he assisted A.M. Cassandre and Le Corbusier." [3]


"Some of Matter's posters follow a design that is rooted in the early 1930s, whereas the close cropped, "heroic head" is at the forefront of the poster.  The presentation of this "herioc head" with little or no facial expression that stares away from the viewer gives the impression of aloofness and total dedication to a greater power." [4]   Other examples of similar styled posters are;  Valentina Kulagina's 1931 poster of International Day of the Women Workers,  C.V. Testi's 1932 poster named Campo Mussolini,  Luigi Martinati's 1933 Cro Ciera Aera Deldecennale, Viktor Korestky's 1938 poster If War Breaks Out Tomorrow.


Switzerland in the 1930's

"Switzerland's industry always depended to an extraordinary extent on exporting machinery, watches, chemicals and pharmaceutics. The high population density, hard conditions for agriculture especially in the alpine region and a scarcity on raw materials are responsible for a notorious deficit in food production and a notorious trade deficit. During the 20th century tourism, transport services and financial services (banking and insurance) had to provide for a favourable balance of payments." [5]  As a freelance graphic designer Matter was hired by the tourism department to produce posters.  The Great Depression proved to be very difficult times worldwide and generally graphic designers were forced to turn to government projects for work due to lack of commercial work.  Due to the devastating depression Switzerland was eager to stimulate their economy by attracting tourist dollars.


A Move to the US

Matter immigrated to the US in 1936  and his first clients included the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)  and the publisher Conde Nast.  Other clients included the Guggenheim Museum, Knoll Furniture  and the New Haven Railroad.  He immediately made his mark on American graphic design.   During this time he became a professor at Yale University teaching photography and graphic design  Matter also took a position at the Container Corporation of America in 1941 (CCA).  "CCA commissioned progressive European and American artists and designers such as; A. M. Cassandre, Herbert Bayer, and Matter to create posters that related to famous quotes for the Western tradition.  In this manner, the posters seemed to transcend the vulgar economic message of most advertising and instead promulgated the idea of CCA as a patron of culture." [6]


 Postmodern Link to 1985

The tourism poster has a direct connection with the Postmodern age.  World renowned designer, Paula Scher created a magazine advertisement for the Swatch company in 1985 (see below) which was almost an exact recreation Matter's original 1935 poster.   "Matter's poster demonstrates the Constructivist" typophoto" technique of postioning a phot of a person floating at the top of the image and looking in the distance.   While experienced graphic designers undoutedly recognized the playfull irony of Scher’s appropriation of the Swiss poster, the average reader of Mademoiselle magazine where it briefly appeared, would be unlikely to be aware of the image’s antecedents.    Scher was publicly criticized for taking the image out of context and parodying it, as some designers saw this type of close copying of an original as close to constituting plagiarism it is quite possible that Scher’s critics simply lacked a sense of humour." [7]



Source: Downloaded from http://www.winterhouse.com/blog/swatch.538.jpg




Other samples of his Swiss poster work




Source: Downloaded from http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/medalist-herbertmatter


Herbert Matter's wikipedia profile 


Herbert Matter's timeline of notable achievements

Source: http://www.herbertmatter.net/timeline.html


A feature length documentary on the life and times of Herbert Matter is scheduled for a January 2010 release, the film is named The Visual Language of Herbert Matter.  A trailer of the movie gives a glimpse of some of the imaginative work he created during his life.



1. ^Author unknown.  (http://www.adcglobal.org/archive/hof/1976/?id=279 "Herbert Matter") New York, 2009 <!--accessed October 4, 2009-->

2. ^Stock-Allen, N. (http://www.designhistory.org/posters.html "Poster History") Carversville, 1999 <!--accessed October 4, 2009-->

3. ^Heller, Steven and Brown, David.  (http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/medalist-herbertmatter "Herbert Matter") New York, 2009 <!--accessed October 1, 2009-->

4. ^Heller, Steven and Ilic, Mirko (2008) Icons of Graphic Design, Thames and Hudson  ISBN 978-0-500-28729-3 pg 78

5. ^Verlag, Pendo.  (http://history-switzerland.geschichte-schweiz.ch/economic-dependence-rationing.html) Zurich 2004 <!--accessed October 1, 2009-->

6. ^Eskilson, S (2007) Graphic Design A New History.  Yale University Press, Laurence King Publishing, SBN 978-0-300-12011-0 pg 322

7. ^Eskilson, S (2007) Graphic Design A New History.  Yale University Press, Laurence King Publishing, SBN 978-0-300-12011-0 pg 349


Heller, Steven and Georgette Ballance. (http://ow.ly/u4xV Graphic Design History) <!--accssed October 11, 2009-->


A Toblerone chocolate bar image was not used in this 1934 Swiss tourism poster.



Comments (9)

elainewong said

at 2:45 pm on Oct 2, 2009

Anna said

at 8:09 pm on Oct 12, 2009

"Heartfield and his close friend Georg Grosz discover the new technique of photomontage" -according to Carmen's page.

Blair said

at 9:34 pm on Oct 12, 2009

Yes, and they were part of the Dada movement which I hyperlinked to a wiki page, I think I'll link them to Carman's page. Thanks!

Rhiannon Krowchuk said

at 9:50 pm on Oct 12, 2009

It seems Herbert Matter and Josef Muller-Brockmann were both involved in the emergence of International Typographic Style. We may be able to link our pages?

johnny de courcy said

at 10:11 pm on Oct 12, 2009

hey dude, the Sachplakat (object poster) became pretty popular in switzerland during ww2 and after. have you found any linkage? through Peter Birkhauser maybe, he was a swiss poster artist

johnny de courcy said

at 10:18 pm on Oct 12, 2009

oh yeah check this link out, http://www.designhistory.org/posters.html your's came right after mine, they overlapped/influenced each other quite a bit i think. poster pride.

Michelle Russell said

at 12:35 am on Oct 13, 2009

Paul Rand is considered one of the originators of the Swiss Style of graphic design. Unfortunately, no one is creating his page as he has links all over the place - influenced by Cassandre and Moholy-Nagy and influenced George Lois. So through Paul we are linked.

Susan Efting said

at 6:00 am on Oct 13, 2009

Blair, I couldn't find the link to Herbert Matter in Koloman Moser's - Vienna Secession wiki. Did you mean there was a link between our guys, or did you mean I'd placed an incorrect link onto my wiki?

Susan Efting said

at 6:21 am on Oct 13, 2009

I found the link and deleted it. Thanks Blair!

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