A Tale of Two Colin

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Paul Colin (1892 -1985) was one of France’s most renown poster artists, particularly for his 1925 poster for the Revue Nègre, which helped to launch the career of Josephine Baker, who became his mistress. For over forty years, he created sets, costumes and posters for the theater. He’s considered a master of the modern school of poster art, having designed over 1400 advertising posters.

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His work from the 20s was the epitome of Art Deco yet quickly turned into a unique modernist method, employing drawing, type, montage and photography — heavy on the geometry. But he was also a painter, dabbling in Impressionism and realism. He painted portraits too.

This cover (above), for a self-authored novel from 1957 is in a surreal style, as he was transitioning out of his signature approach. His work during World War II had impact on Lester Beall and E.McKnight Kauffer.

Jean Colin (1912-1982), not related to Paul, graduated the Beaux-Arts in 1933, anxious to become a poster artist and graphic designer. But before he did, he asked his hero, the celebrated designer Paul Colin, if he shouldn’t first change his name. “The elder Colin laughed,” says a biographer, “and 15 years later laughed no more, as the second Colin, Jean, overshadowed the first.”


Jean Colin created ‘social propaganda’ posters during the Nazi occupation, after which he designed film posters. Among these were his for L’Appel du Silence and Zéro Conduite films. His client turned to branding lucrative clients such as Cinzano, Kiwi shoe polish, Philips razors, Air France, the SNCF, and auto equipment manufacturer Marchal.

I recently found this 1947 book jacket (above) that resembles the collage methods of Colin, Beall and Kauffer, yet has wit and integrity all its own.

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