Born in the Livorno, Italy, Leonetto Cappiello (1875-1942) revolutionized advertising into a powerful, eye-catching, collectable art form, which brilliantly linked bright, vivid colors with the products he painted. A caricaturist in his youth, the self-taught Cappiello escalated to the early 20th century’s most acclaimed European artist, creating over 530 advertising posters during his 40 year career. Cleverly linking products with striking, imaginative images, he adorned ads for beverages, ballet, literature, plays, travel and music halls. Considered to be the father of the modern poster, Cappiello led the Art Deco movement, and set standards which are still fundamental to modern day advertisers.
Appealing and effective, Leonetto Cappiello’s exuberant “Cognac Monnet” advertises sunshine in a glass with swirling solar flares of bright, energizing orange. His new functionalist style of graphic art, which took dominance at a time when Art Nouveau began to decline, was based on a single bold image which he used to grab the viewer’s attention. This graphic technique proved highly effective in the world of advertising, not only to draw attention to the product but also to build a brand.
In addition to gaining widespread visibility, the technique of using single bold images was also extremely effective in brand-building, as certain products became closely associated with certain images. During the period 1901-1914, Cappiello produced several hundred color lithographic posters in an idiom that revolutionized the art of poster design.
Whether creating an advertisement for fashion, liquor or food, Cappiello brought a sense of fun and laughter to every image he made. Instead of relying on complex, stylized and painterly designs used by previous poster artists, Cappiello focused on instant visual impact, and produced images more appropriate to the faster pace of the 20th-century. In contrast to his predecessors, he appreciated that a simple visual metaphor for a product could create a much more powerful advertising message than all the floral complexity that was popular in the Art Nouveau era.