Posts Tagged ‘commercial artist’

Yes, Its Art

April 28, 2011

An article in April 15th The Standard of Hong Kong lead to this blog entry. I’m sure many of you have heard of the late 19th century French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. How many of you know that Toulouse-Lautrec got his start by painting advertising posters for the famous Parisian nightclub Moulin Rouge?  Many of you know of  the mid 20th Century American artist Andy Warhol and his portraits of famous actors and those Campbell’s soup cans, yet how many know that Warhol got his start as a commercial artist in the 1950’s and his works appeared in Glamour Magazine and in ads for Schiaparelli gloves?

What’s the point of this little art history lesson, you ask?  Simple, it’s that art isn’t just the stuff in museums. It is even in advertisements, such as those for a nightclub from 19th century France all the way to a movie poster from 21st century America. While the object of both kinds of advertisements is to get the viewer to part with his or her money, they  had to be visually appealing enough to make the viewer want to part with his or her money.

Which leads to another aspect of advertisements, namely they have a job to do. The most beautiful advertisement in the world doesn’t always lead to sales. For example, the first ad designed by David Ogilvy, the founder of the Ogilvy & Mather Advertising Agency and the author of Confessions of an Advertising Man and Ogilvy on Advertising was a flop. What was so bad about it? It was an ad for a cooking stove and he put in a picture of the Edouard Manet painting Luncheon on the Grass. Underneath the picture was copy about how new things shock people. Only towards the end of the copy was the cooking stove mentioned. What does a painting and shocking people have to with a cooking stove? Nothing and it was only after the ad ran did Ogilvy realize that fact. Well, so much for being creative.

The article in The Standard stated that advertisements are accidental art and I disagree. It took a talented artist to create these items, be it a poster for a nightclub or a movie poster. They had bring together both art and business to create something that makes money and that’s no accident. When it works, the client and artist are very happy. When it doesn’t, as in the case of Ogilvy’s Luncheon on the Grass ad, the artist either ends up with something that has the client scratching his or her head or the artist ends up unemployed.

Shock, entice, or befuddle, a good ad, like the good piece of art that it is, is never boring.


Ogilvy, David. Ogilvy on Advertising,  First Vintage Books, March 1985, pg. 25