The exhibition dedicated to Leonetto Cappiello (1875-1942), which will be opened until February 17th in Livorno in the Biblioteca Labronica “F.D. Guerrazzi”, offers a modern reading of graphic design as “pass to experience the evolution, over the centuries, of the languages related to the communication of events and consumer products.” The exhibition, entitled ‘Réclame. Leonetto Cappiello e le stagioni della grafica pubblicitaria a Livorno’ (Réclame. Leonetto Cappiello and the seasons of advertising graphics in Livorno) is curated by Antonella Capitanio, professor of History of the applied arts at the University of Pisa, who also aimed to rediscover a trade, the one of the advertising graphic designer, that in time has been increasingly digitized.
Born in Livorno, Cappiello moved to Paris when he was 20 years old and there he was inspired by the fathers of the Belle Epoque poster art, like Jules Chéret. He personally met Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in 1899, and from these experience the artist’s production resulted to be characterized for a period by posters that, on a dark background, reproduce the product to be promoted together with images of subjects and animated characters that become public heritage, triggering the identification processes peculiar to advertising. Many of these are on show in Livorno, like the frog with shoes by Chaussures J. B. Torrilhon (1920), the green devil of Maurin Quina Le Puy (1906), the fire-spitting Pierrot (1909, for Thermogène).
His are also the iconic posters of the clown of Bitter Campari, the King of the Bitter (the Fernet Branca) dressed only in bottles, or the Cinzano man riding a scarlet colt. “This is precisely the genius intuition of Cappiello: to create images that go beyond the product to be advertised. The essentiality of the image is combined with its great caricatural vein and propensity to color to ignite the attention and surprise the observer – consumer, even with a strong sense of humor,” explains Capitanio.
Ilona Catani Scarlett