POSTERS. Fern, Constantine and Vignelli: WORD AND IMAGE. POSTERS FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1968.

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WORD AND IMAGE
POSTERS FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE MUSEUM
OF MODERN ART

Alan M. Fern [text] and Mildred Constantine [Editor], Massimo Vignelli [Designer]

Alan M. Fern [text] and Mildred Constantine [Editor], Massimo Vignelli [Designer]: WORD AND IMAGE. POSTERS FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, distributed by New York Graphic Society Ltd., Greenwich, Conn., 1968. First  edition. Square quarto. Thick printed chip boards. Publishers cloth tape binding. Photo illustrated dust jacket. 160 pp. 30 color plates. 181 black and white illustrations. Jacket and book design by Massimo Vignelli. Edgeworn jacket with chip to spine crown, one closed tear to front panel and splitting along the rear spine juncture. Book interior unmarked and clean. Out-of-print.  A nice copy of a notoriously fragile volume. A very good copy in a good dust jacket.

10.75 x 10.75 hardcover book with 160 pages and 211 illustrations (30 in color). Contents include the essay "Word and Image" by Alan M. Fern;  bibliography by Bernard Karpel; sections include The Beginnings of the Modern Poster, Art Nouveau, The Expressionists, The Bauhaus and the New Formalism, The Diversity of Design in the Postwar Years. All of the major art movements of the 20th century are represented here: Art Noveau, Art Deco, de Stijl, Constructivism, streamlining, Swiss, International, the Bauhaus, the new typography, etc.  An outstanding, oversized collection.

Includes color reproductions of poster designs by the following modern masters:  Herbert Bayer, Lester Beall, Lucian Bernhard, Max Bill, Joseph Binder, Will Bradley, Jean Carlu, A. M. Cassandre, Charles Coiner, Walter Dexel, Milton Glaser, Armin Hoffmann, Johannes itten, E. McKnight Kauffer, Oskar Kokoschka, Gustav Klutsis, le Corbusier, El Lissitzky, Man Ray, Herbert Matter, Peter Max, Alphonse Mucha, Tomoko Miho, Victor Moscoso, Josef Muller-Brockmann, Paul Rand, Alexander Rodchencko, Oskar Schlemmer, Beh Shahn, Jan Tschichold, Joost Schmidt, Andy Warhol, Tadanori Yokoo, Piet Zwart and many others.

Steven Heller’s obituary for Ms. Constantine, The New York Times, December 13, 2008: “Mildred Constantine Bettelheim, a curator who brought new prestige to the graphic design and poster collections of the Museum of Modern Art in the 1950s and ’60s, when most museums marginalized such ephemeral arts, died on Wednesday night at her home in Nyack, N.Y. She was 95.

Ms. Constantine, who used her maiden name professionally and was known to associates as Connie, was associate curator and ultimately curatorial consultant in the Modern’s architecture and design department from 1943 through 1970, many of those years under Philip Johnson, the department’s founder. She was largely responsible for popularizing ignored or difficult-to-categorize collections, or what she called “fugitive material.”

With exhibitions including “Olivetti: Design in Industry” (1952), “Signs in the Street” (1954) and “Lettering by Hand” (1962), she fostered a new discipline of curatorial studies in the applied and decorative arts. She gave career-defining solo exhibitions for individual graphic and product designers like Alvin Lustig, Bruno Munari, Tadanori Yokoo and Massimo Vignelli, among others.

And with the enthusiastic support of René D’Harnoncourt, then director of the Modern, she mounted the museum’s first exhibitions of art devoted to causes, like “Polio Posters” (1948), for which she commissioned artists and designers to create works that would be used to spread awareness of specific social issues.

Her groundbreaking 1968 exhibition, “Word and Image,” was the first at the museum to consider seriously the major 20th-century posters in the Modern’s collection. The exhibition catalog, which she edited, is still an important document of poster history.

“Part of the fun of this exhibit was filling in where we were lacking,” she once explained.

Nonetheless, she seemed proudest of the system of preservation she borrowed from the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam: hanging posters rather than rolling them in tubes, which was not the safest method.

Ms. Constantine also developed what she called the Ephemera Collection, building upon the graphic materials — from letterheads to business cards — originally collected by the German typographer Jan Tschichold. Furthermore, she savored “wooing” objects away from their collectors.

As a prodigious editor, author or co-author of exhibition catalogs and books, she produced significant scholarly resources on subjects like Art Nouveau (in 1959) and contemporary package design (in 1959).

Born in Brooklyn in 1913, Ms. Constantine received a B.A. and M.A. from New York University and later attended the graduate school of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Her first job, from 1930 to 1937, was with the College Art Association, as an editorial assistant on the journal Parnassus. Later she worked in the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, a United States government agency, where she met Mr. D’Harnoncourt.

Ms. Constantine belonged to the leftist Committee Against War and Fascism, and in 1936 traveled to Mexico, where she became interested in the political Latin and Central American graphics movement. She organized a comprehensive Latin American poster collection, initially shown at the Library of Congress and now part of the permanent collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

She was always on the prowl for untapped cultural artifacts, “an advocate of modern anything on the cutting edge,” said Alan Fern, the curator emeritus of the National Portrait Gallery and a frequent collaborator. Once, when offered a cache of transparencies of virtually forgotten cultural posters from the Soviet Union, she jumped at the chance to produce a book, “Revolutionary Soviet Film Posters” (1974), with Mr. Fern as co-author. The book, which reintroduced this suppressed genre of revolutionary design from the mid-1920s, remains an influence on contemporary design practice.

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