Autumn 2021

A curatorial homecoming

E. McKnight Kauffer: The Artist in Advertising

Edited by Caitlin Condell and Emily M. Orr, Designed by Lucinda Hitchcock, Rizzoli Electa, $65, £50

‘As a bird, forever in flight, forever searching for a place to come to rest’ was novelist Arnold Bennett’s description of his friend Edward McKnight Kauffer (1890-1954), who is the subject of a book that accompanies an exhibition that runs at New York’s Cooper Hewitt until 10 April 2022.

The eleven confidently designed and meticulously researched chapters of E. McKnight Kauffer: The Artist in Advertising discuss Kauffer’s work, from stage sets to carpets, book illustrations, posters, costumes and murals; impressing upon us the diversity of Kauffer’s output, which shaped commercial visual culture on both sides of the Atlantic over 40 years. The sheer abundance and quality of images sets this book apart: the ‘plates’ section runs to more than 100 pages. Each essay is heavily illustrated, bringing Kauffer’s lesser known book jacket work together with archival photos and posters, shaping the quality and direction of discussion.

Lucinda Hitchcock’s imaginative and sympathetic page designs for E. McKnight Kauffer: The Artist in Advertising. Chapter opener with a drawing by Kauffer for the British General Post Office (GPO), 1936. Top. Fortnum & Mason’s booklet (recto and verso), 1931.

Threaded through several chapters is American-born Kauffer’s role in the emerging profession of graphic design in England – his home from 1915 to 1940. His belief in design’s potential to further the public good, rather than merely to drive business, underlined his early commissions …

The cover of E. McKnight Kauffer: The Artist in Advertising, 2021, is also a poster, based on Kauffer’s designs for the Villiers Engineering Company 1928. Design: Lucinda Hitchcock.

Harriet Atkinson, fellow, University of Brighton, editorial adviser Bloomsbury Design Library

Read the full version in Eye no. 102 vol. 26, 2021

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.