Cassandre, A. M.: PEIGNOT – Caractere Dessine Par A. M. Cassandre. Paris: Deberny et Peignot, 1937.

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[Caractere Dessine Par A. M. Cassandre]

A. M. Cassandre


A. M. Cassandre [Adolphe Jean-Marie Mouron]: PEIGNOT [Caractere Dessine Par A. M. Cassandre]. Paris: Deberny et Peignot, 1937. Slim quarto. Text in French and English. Stapled printed thick wrappers. 32 pp. Typographic illustrations printed in multiple colors throughout. Front cover neatly detached at binding edge. Light wear overall. A good copy. Rare.

9.75 x 12.5 saddle-stitched booklet with 32 pages introducing the world to Cassandre's Peignot typeface. Illustrated in A. M. CASSANDRE OEUVRES GRAPHIQUES MODERNES 1923 - 1939 [Paris: Bibliotheque Nationale de France, 2005. Illustrated pp. 118 - 121].

A. M. Cassandre [1901 –1968] combined surrealism and cubism through the rigors of commercial art and single-handedly defined an era. Born Adolphe Jean Edouard Mouron he studied at the Ecoles des Beaux Arts in Paris. He produced his first poster Au Bucheron at 22. Cassandre's work was seen as a bridge between the modern fine arts and the commercial arts. Despite his affinity to the fine arts he always believed there should be a separateness between disciplines. The success of his posters probably lies in his philosophy that his posters were meant to be seen by people who do not try to see them. In 1936 he traveled to America to work on several projects. While there he designed several surrealistic covers for Alexey Brodovitch at Harper's Bazaar. In addition, he created for NW Ayers, the classic eye of the Ford billboard and several pieces for the Container Corporation of America. His career as a poster designer ended in 1939 when he changed disciplines and became a stage, set and theatrical designer.

The following is excerpted from Amelia Hugill-Fontanel's Graduate Thesis at the Rochester Institute of Technology:

Arts et Metiers Graphiques [AMG] was a prominent French graphic arts journal that published sixty-eight issues in total, on a bi-monthly basis from September 1927 May 1939. The magazine reported on diverse themes that impacted the graphic arts, including: the history of printing, typography, advertising design, photography, and technical advances of the time.

AMG was conceived by Charles Peignot, head of the French typefoundry, Deberny et Peignot. After a series of mergers and acquisitions culminating in 1923, the foundry was the leading company of its kind in France‹manufacturing not only thousands of metal type designs, but also machinery, furniture, and accessories for sale to the typesetting and printing industries.

A young visionary with presses, metal type, and personal connections at his disposal, Charles Peignot secured his legacy in graphic arts history with the publication of AMG. In it, he wanted to cover "all the subjects near or far from printing, of its history, and its diverse contemporary manifestations."

Charles Peignot's artistic beliefs were legitimized into a bona fide genre at the 1925 Exposition des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes. At this fair for commercial products, the Art Deco style was formally introduced to the world from Paris. Deco's inspirational roots stemmed from diverse sources. These included Picasso and Braque's cubism; the exoticism of Egyptian and Native American motifs, rediscovered in Tutankhamen's tomb and Mayan temples; the quasi-constructivist stage and costume design of Les Ballets Russes that had toured Paris before World War I.

Charles Peignot made connections with the key participants in the Deco and Modernist movements around the time of the Exposition. A. M. Cassandre, (nee Adolphe Jean-Marie Mouron), won first prize at the Expo for a furniture store's poster design entitled "Au Bucheron." Cassandre's hand-drawn type may have impressed Peignot, as each letter is stylistically reduced to its geometric essence, devoid of any curves other than compass-drawn circles. From this introduction, Peignot commissioned Cassandre to design letters for the foundry.

Following the Art Deco premiere at the 1925 Exposition, Cassandre joined with designer Jean Carlu to form a group of artists whose mission would be to advance Modernist aesthetics in all applications of design and thought. The Union des Artistes Modernes (UAM) was born of this common goal. Charles Peignot, joined the group's membership with the likes of writer Jean Cocteau, Nobel laureate Andre Gide, architect Le Courbusier, decorator Sonia Delaunay, Maxmilien Vox, and other artists who specialized in the design of jewelry, textiles, furniture, and lighting.

Peignot later clarified the group's purpose: "Together we tried to break away from the style that survived the first World War. It is not surprising that I tried to accomplish in my field what my friends were doing in theirs."

With a supportive peer group, a willing audience, a rejuvenated economy, and the fine reputation of his firm, Charles Peignot was set to become a leader in his field.

Nineteen twenty-nine ushered in two triumphs for Deberny et Peignot. First, Charles Peignot bought the rights to a Bauhaus sans serif typeface called Futura that was originally designed by Paul Renner for the German foundry, Bauer. Maximilien Vox recognized Futura's potential as a best-seller and urged Peignot to acquire it. The typeface was marketed by Deberny et Peignot under its commercial name, Europe.

Peignot issued Bifur, a typeface designed by Cassandre. Bifur is a typeface that escapes rigid classification, but perfectly embodies the Art Deco spirit. Unlike the simplistic purity of line in Europe, Bifur broke letterforms into busy geometric line and block patterns in upper-case characters that colored a page with an active border at first glance, and then shouted out the heading message upon closer examination.

Peignot later recounted Bifur's impact: "There were no new or innovative typefaces which existed at the time. The Bifur created a real scandal . . . at least in the small world of publishing and printing. Engraving this design was a remarkable tour de force. Needless to say, Bifur was not a financial success, but in those happy days one could afford to take a few risks."

Deberny et Peignot released another Deco typeface by Cassandre progressively named Acier, or "Steel," which was the material of choice for UAM furniture designers and architects.

With UAM allies at the helm, it was no surprise that a Deberny et Peignot type would become the official face for the Exposition signage. Cassandre's typeface, Peignot, aspired to return to the purity of the original Roman letters, while abandoning "the cursive handwritten lower-case forms which the printing trade inherited from the fifteenth-century humanists." The resulting typeface ignored the traditional designs of many minuscule letters and instead replaced them with scaled-down versions of their capitalized variations.