Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Mid-Century Art - The Posters of David Klein

If you have been reading this blog for a while you will know that I have a little obsession with Zebras. (You can see some previous posts here.)  So when I found this image I just had to get myself a copy, and find out more about the artist.

African travel poster with zebras 1967 by David Klein

This Poster is one of many designed and illustrated by David Klein (February 23, 1918 – December 9, 2005), a native Texan, who is best remembered for his advertising work during the 1950s and 60s, especially for TWA.  This one was produced in 1967, which is a little out of my mid-century range, but it's till older than me so it's OK!

David Klein in his studio c. 1957
David Klein in his studio c. 1957 via

Klein was born in El Paso, Texas in 1918, but moved to California. During the 1930's he was a prominent member of the California Watercolor Society, and during WWII he served in the US Army producing a variety of illustrations for The War Effort. In 1953, the United State Air Force created the Air Force Art Collection, which features three of Klein’s works, such as this one.

David Klein-  Maintenance Being Performed At Sculthorpe, England. c.1942

After the war Klein moved to New York City and settled in Brooklyn Heights, where he would live for the next 60 years. By 1947, Klein was working as an art director at Clifford Strohl Associates, a theatrical advertising agency, and he began illustrating posters for Broadway shows, such as Death of a Salesman; Brigadoon; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; and Alice In Wonderland.

David Klein Brigadoon, 1947

David Klein The Amazing Adele, 1956
He also designed posters and window cards for Brooklyn's community theater, The Heights Players, through out the 1950s.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Klein designed and illustrated dozens of posters for Howard Hughes and TWA (Trans World Airlines).  He basically single handedly defined the state of poster art of the period with his abstract style and use of bright, flat color. These are some of my favourites:

Los Vegas travel poster with girl by David Klein

Vintage 1960s India travel poster with elephant by David Klein

In 1957 Klein's 1956 poster of New York City became part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Vintage 1950s New York travel poster by David Klein

He also worked on several other travel poster campaigns throughout his career, including Amtrak, American Airlines, Grace Line, Cunard and Holland American Lines.

In the 1960s Klein illustrated a range of posters for First National City Bank of New York (Citibank), featuring colorful  abstract animal and cute slogans, which won a Printing Industries of American National Graphics Award in 1967, as well as an award from the Society of Illustrators. The images were so popular they were sold ready to frame at many of the banks branches.

Vintage 1960s bank poster by David Klein with whale  Vintage 1960s bank poster by David Klein with snail

He also found time to do other advertising illustrations, and also illustrations for a few children's books, such as this one, entitled 'fireclose'.

Want more?

You can see more of David Klein's work here, where most of these images were sourced,
or read the El Paso Herald on the day of David's birth, here (ok, I did some crazy research).  You can also buy originals and copies of his work here.

Deb xx

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