Last week, Mildred “Connie” Constantine died at 95. For the better part of her lifetime, she was the engine that drove the graphic, package, and poster design collections at the Museum of Modern Art during the 1950s and ’60s. She founded the Ephemera Collection at MoMA and gave career-defining exhibits to the likes of Alvin Lustig and Bruno Munari. I met her when she was trawling for additions to the caricature and cartoon collections. She was an invaluable advocate of applied and decorative arts, and later, a champion of textiles and fiber arts.
For design historians, however, and even design practitioners, her greatest contributions were two books, which she co-authored and edited. Word and Image (above) was the catalog that helped put the MoMA poster collection on the map. For a long time the collection, which Constantine revived after a period of dormancy, was the flagship of the graphic design holdings, and continues to grow. Revolutionary Soviet Film Posters, co-authored with Alan M. Fern (then of the Library of Congress), was the first book to assemble the avant-garde design of the USSR that had long been banished from public view. This book arguably triggered the revival of Constructivist design (bottom) so popular in the 1980s and ’90s and that remains an influence on contemporary practice. Thank you Connie.