Le Espectacle Est Dans La Rue
A.M. Cassandre (1901-1968) was a multi-talented French artist; a painter, an illustrator, a costume designer, a set painter, a graphic designer and a typographer. Cassandre’s early style was generally influenced by cubism and surrealism, you can see it in his use of angular and symmetrical geometric forms.
(See the award-winning ‘The Woodcutter’ or the ‘Au Bûcheron’ 1923 below.)
He was baptized Adolphe Jean-Marie Mouron and was born in Charkow, Ukraine in 1901 to French parents. In 1915 at the age of 14, his parents sent him to Paris to study to become a painter at the oh-là-là École Des Beaux Arts. His nom du peintre was taken from Greek mythology—Cassandra was a priestess of Apollo who was cursed to utter true prophecies.
Milton Glaser stated that Cassandre was arguably the greatest graphic designer from the early 20th century.
Sadly, his life ended in tragic suicide on June 17, 1968. Rumors said that Cassandra was a depressed man and he took his life when his new typeface “La Cassandre” was not published. It was eventually finished in a revival of sorts by Thierry Puyfoulhoux (2003).
More on typography toward the end of the post.
Index Grafik have a great in-depth essay on Cassandre’s font design:
In 1927, the Deberny & Peignot foundry presented the character Bifur, designed by Cassandre at the request of Charles Peignot, who wrote:‹ After several contacts and many conversations, both influenced by the theories of Kandinsky and the spirit of the Dessau school. convinced that typographic creation could also be purified, we agreed to undertake the Bifur. This was a somewhat scandalous rupture in a particularly traditionalist art and environment, which demolished some taboos and had the merit of liberating ourselves.
Charles Peignot, Cassandre and typography, Médecine de France, n° 198, 1969.
This text is revealing. The Bifur alphabet appears as an innovation of great aesthetic interest, despite its commercial failure. It should however be specified that it is about a character for titles, drawn only in capital letters, clearly directed towards a use on posters. Thus, at the time when the avant-garde recommended an ideological recourse to the lower case, capital letters being the signs of a dominating hierarchy, the tandem Peignot-Cassandre took the opposite view. He preferred, suggests Roxane Jubert, a typography attached to the past and concerned with grandeur.
The Yves Saint Lauren Logo
Made in 1961 at the request of Saint Laurent, the three intertwined initials were the one and only proposal made by Cassandre to Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé during a meeting in a Parisian restaurant. A proposal immediately accepted because according to Pierre Bergé:
Cassandre was the greatest, the best graphic designer of his time. He had drawn Christian Dior’s acronym, he was forgotten.