McKnight Kauffer Graphic Designer

plaquette publicitaire Chrysler design de Mc Knight Kauffer


Born in Great Falls, Montana, Kauffer’s precocious artistic talents were first employed in painting stage scenery at his local opera house. They were also recognized by an acquaintance named Joseph E. McKnight, a professor at the University of Utah, who in 1912 paid for Kauffer to pursue his studies in Paris. As a mark of gratitude, Kauffer subsequently incorporated his benefactor’s surname into his own. Upon the outbreak of the First World War Kauffer fled to England where in 1915 he received a commission to design publicity posters for the Underground. The originality and vibrancy of his images led him to receive commissions from a variety of companies and publishing houses over the following two decades, including Fortnum & Mason, Lund Humphries and Chrysler Motors. With a finger on the pulse of the latest artistic trends, Kauffer’s special genius lay in his ability to adapt the language of the avant-garde to the needs of advertising, creating works that were not simply visually striking but also rich in artistic merit. With commissions increasingly scarce following the declaration of war in 1939 Kauffer returned to America, where he continued to work for a number of years prior to his death. McKnight Kauffer produced some of the most iconic and influential commercial imagery of the early twentieth century. A remarkably versatile artist, his work drew inspiration from a wide variety of styles ranging from Japanese art to Fauvism, Vorticism and Constructivism, and encompassed painting, applied art, interior design and scenography. Kauffer’s pioneering work in the field of graphic design ranks alongside the achievements of fellow avant-garde figures such Wyndham Lewis or Cassandre for example.


Featured item :

[CHRYSLER]  |  Ein Traum wird wirklichkeit. Walter Chrysler und seine Wagen. 52 – 62 – 72 – 80.

Berlin, Crawfords Reklame-Agentur, (1928).

Square 4to, publisher’s silver boards printed in red and blue after a design by Edward McKnight Kauffer. (24)pp. German text. Each page opening a variation of squares, rectangles and circles printed in alumnium and royal blue, with text, diagrams and illustrations throughout in chocolate brown. Stamp of Chrysler’s sale office in Göttingen. Complete. First Edition.

A milestone in graphic design history, with an eye-catching and fluid graphic design suggesting the power and speed of the Chrysler cars, by the famed London advertising agency Crawford Ltd. and Edward McKnight Kauffer.

 In 1927, the American-born poster and advertising designer Edward McKnight Kauffer was brought to the agency by its director Ashley Havinden, and Kauffer’s work for Chrysler between 1927 and 1929 included publicity material which was remarkably sophisticated for its time (Heon Stevenson, American Automobile Advertising, p. 61).

The silver boards lightly rubbed as is inevitable, neat restauration to spine and very faint spotting to first and last leaf, but generally a pleasing copy of a rare and very desirable trade catalogue.

Ref. Pages d’or de l’édition publicitaire, 72  

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