Poster, ITF Internationale tentoonstelling op filmgebied (International Film Exhibition)
Piet Zwart ranks among the most celebrated designers of the 20th century. This 1928 poster, ITF: Internationale Tentoonstelling op Filmgebied (International Film Exhibition), is his most famous graphic design work.
The poster advertises a film festival in The Hague at which avant-garde films from nine different countries were shown. International film festivals were a new phenomenon of the late 1920s and, like many avant-garde designers and artists, Zwart was a film devotee. He joined the Experimental Theater Association of The Hague, which showed avant-garde films as matinees, and helped them organize a large-scale film exhibition in 1928 to encourage interest in the new medium. Zwart was influenced by the geometric structure and primary colors of the Dutch modernist De Stijl movement. He was also drawn, however, to the freeform typography of Dada (e.g., using different styles and sizes of fonts in the same piece) and to the photomontage techniques of Russian Constructivism. After meeting the Hungarian designer El Lissitzky, who had experimented with a type of photography called the “photogram” that involved laying objects down on photosensitive paper to create a negative image on which text could be printed, Zwart used the technique for a short period of time. By 1926, a year after László Moholy-Nagy published his book, Malerei, Photographie, Film, which showed how photography and typography could be joined in a unified graphic design work, Zwart began experimenting with combinations of photocollage and text.
This poster is a powerful example of Zwart’s graphics. He combines the red, white, and blue colors of the Dutch flag, uses varying sizes and styles of typefaces, and employs strong diagonals to accentuate movement and the key word, “FILM.” Finally, he incorporates two photographic images: a tightly cropped pair of eyes that appear intently focused on an image of film footage. The carefully organized proportions and balance of color, positive and negative space, images, and typography, establishes this poster as arguably the greatest accomplishment of Dutch modernism.
It is credited
Museum purchase through gift of Susan Hermanos, Judith and Charles Bergoffen, Cathy Nierras, and Anonymous Donors and from Drawings and Prints Council and General Acquisitions Endowment Funds.
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Its dimensions are
H x W (Sheet): 85 × 61 cm (33 7/16 in. × 24 in.) H x W x D (Frame): 103.5 × 78.7 × 3.8 cm (40 3/4 in. × 31 in. × 1 1/2 in.)
It is inscribed
Printed, lower left: S / P. ZWART.
Cite this object as
Poster, ITF Internationale tentoonstelling op filmgebied (International Film Exhibition); Netherlands; letterpress on wove paper; H x W (Sheet): 85 × 61 cm (33 7/16 in. × 24 in.) H x W x D (Frame): 103.5 × 78.7 × 3.8 cm (40 3/4 in. × 31 in. × 1 1/2 in.); Museum purchase through gift of Susan Hermanos, Judith and Charles Bergoffen, Cathy Nierras, and Anonymous Donors and from Drawings and Prints Council and General Acquisitions Endowment Funds; 2013-20-1
This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s.