• Steven Heller

Julius Klinger Reappreciated

I cannot wait for the Wolfsonian’s fall exhibition Julius Klinger: Posters for a Modern Age (Oct. 6, 2017–April 1, 2018). As its organizers say, “The exhibition will outline the development of the Austrian designer’s career through over 100 posters, prints, drawings and book illustrations from The Wolfsonian’s collection and beyond—commissions that reveal Klinger’s knack for infusing beautiful imagery with wit and an astute marketing sensibility. Their display in Miami Beach will mark the first U.S. solo exhibition devoted to the designer, and a unique opportunity for visitors outside of Europe to experience so much of his work in one place.”

Curator Jeremy Aynsley, professor of design history at the University of Brighton, notes that Klinger “was an outstanding draughtsman who captured the elegance of the times in his posters, yet also made strongly satirical images that engaged with the issues of the day.”

Klinger (1876–1942), a master of “Reklamekunst” in his time, was born near Vienna to a Jewish family and established his reputation as a prominent graphic artist, illustrator, typographer and prolific writer closely associated with the Vienna Secession art movement and Jugendstil, the German derivation of Art Nouveau. Working in Austria, Germany, and briefly the United States, Klinger helped create or modernize the image and identities of countless clients, ranging from theaters and cabarets, art manufacturers and commercial companies to public agencies.

“The art of persuasion is a key interest of The Wolfsonian, and Klinger was a master,” says Wolfsonian director Tim Rodgers. “Through his instrumental graphic work, our visitors will consider the power of design in affecting change, often by using tactics still employed by advertisers, corporations and brand influencers today.”

The Wolfsonian will also publish a companion book with an essay by Aynsley and translated extracts of Klinger’s writings. This will be his first English publication in over a century.

In 1896, at the turn of the 20th century, Klinger moved briefly to Munich, where he worked for the satiric publication Meggendorfer Blatter before moving to Berlin (1897), where he became a poster designer for the art printer Hollerbaum und Schmidt, which was responsible for the Sachplakat movement.

From 1897 to 1902 he collaborated on several humor and culture magazines, including Die Lustige Blätter. In 1915 he established a studio with a group of younger designers that became known as “the Klinger School.” Klinger introduced himself to the American public in 1923, when he arranged for the publication of the profusely illustrated volume Poster Art in Vienna. His first visit to the United States was in December 1928, when he was invited as artistic advisor at Mac Manus Inc., a subsidiary to General Motors in Detroit. He returned for a second visit in 1932 to deliver a class in Advanced Poster Design at the New School in New York. Klinger, an assimilated Jew, was eventually banned from working in public. He and his wife Emilie were transported to an extermination camp in Maly Trostenets, near Minsk, where they were killed on June 9, 1942.

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