Thanks Laura for you great presentation. A few remarks, however:
- You focused on the female and the exotic as main features for the popular; I have missed, however, reference to the political circumstances. Especially the series on "Allemagne en armes" (1934) with its strikingly modern cover designs has contributed to the popular opinion on Germany, as I would assume.
- With regard to the topic of women's features, you should have a look at "die neue linie" (from 1929 on) which served as a model for many of the spreads of "Vu".
- When referring to the Soviet Union special issue from Nov 1931, it is obvious that Vogel knew "USSR en construction" in its French edition; by the way: at the same time, fall 1931, John Heartfield was in Moscow and he created the first photo cover issue of "USSR im Bau" for the Dec 1931 number.
All best from Germany - I enjoyed your presentation very much
Patrick Roessler (keynote speaker)
Dear Mr Rössler,
Thank you very much for your stimulating comments!
Issues dedicated to Germany show indeed an interesting hybrid of modernist features, associated with the use of Fraktur (which was not normally deemed « modern » by designers). You must be thinking specifically of the three 1934 special issues: their photomontages and vivid colors especially stand out from VU’s other cover designs.
(Issues 318, 319 and 320)
In fact VU generally associated the topic of war and conflict with stark modernist designs. See for example its extensive coverage of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia.
(Issues 395 and 409)
The narrative surrounding Germany’s re-militarization is therefore unsurprisingly also usually associated with modernist designs. A lot of spreads also resort to maps, graphs, diagrams, all traditional elements of military visual culture. Because these elements traditionally came from technical prints (I.e. catalogs) they were deemed modern and meshed very well with other modernist design features (such as small margins, sans-serif typefaces, heavy black lines).
(Issues 319 and 263)
Yet the way Germany is visually identified is unique because of this outstanding use of Blackletter (Fraktur) which obviously has its very own and complicated cultural history. I would argue that since 1928 the use of Fraktur in VU indicates it was commonly perceived as a signifier for « German-ness ». But its connotations became more complex as it was slowly identified with National-Socialist aesthetics (which could in themselves be considered a special kind of modernism, I assume). And VU’s 1934 issues clearly play with these aesthetics, associating strong visual contrasts with Fraktur and the Swastika.
So I would definitely agree that these covers contributed constructing a popular, mainstream representation of Germany in France. But I also think that this popular representation is the result of very complex cultural and media processes that could certainly be investigated more, as I am by no means an expert on these issues.
As for die neue linie, your book on the topic was very helpful in my study of VU. I actually think a comparative and transnational study of how both periodicals dealt with modern lifestyle issues and the topic of femininity would be very interesting.
Great addition, Laura! I did not know the Ethiopia example. I was thinking of these special issues, of course, and - interestingly enough - there was this wonderful special issue on Germany in 1932 (!) with one of the most striking photomontage covers: The gigantic Hindenburg in the background, the mass, and the new German youth; truly iconic.
If you are interested in the relationship between typography, modernism, and graphic design in periodicals of the interwar period you might want to consult my volumes
Rössler, Patrick: New Typographies. Bauhaus & beyond. 100 years of Functional Graphic Design in Germany. Göttingen: Wallstein, 2018.
Rössler, Patrick: Illustrated Magazine of the Times. A Lost Bauhaus Book by László Moholy-Nagy and Joost Schmidt – an Attempt at Construction. Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 2019 (Bauhausbuch, 15).
Both were published on occasion of the Bauhaus anniversary in 2019 and include several hundreds of visual examples never reproduced before. (Text in German and English likewise.) You are welcome to give me feedback if you happen to see the books!
Thank you very much for these recommendations! I did not have the chance to read these books yet, but I am currently especially interested in the legacies of New Typography and modernist design in the postwar era, so I will make sure to order "New Typographies. Bauhaus and beyond"!