Dudovich – Photography between art and passion. The exhibition of the great Italian poster designer

In Trieste, one of the most anticipated exhibitions of the year: the rediscovery of the genius of Marcello Dudovich. From photography to poster design, a journey in the work of one of the men who shaped the Italian imagination of the twentieth century.

Marcello Dudovich: an artist at work for Ricordi, Borsalino, Rinascente

Marcello Dudovich, Maria Melato
1910 Tempera su carta 61 x 42 cm
Collezione privata, Schio

Marcello Dudovich takes his first professional steps by learning the art of the “chromist” at the Officine Grafiche Ricordi in Milan in the late 1800s: here he transfers the works of great poster artists such as Hohenstein and the other lithographist from Trieste, Metlicovitz. While here he appreciates the dictates of the liberty style, which he absorbs and then develops in the direction of the Jugendsti with intimate tones and taking into account the tastes of the petty bourgeoisie of the time (soft colours, peaceful atmospheres and family portraits). A style that becomes of his own in this period and that he will respect for the rest of his career.
At the beginning of the twentieth century – while living and working between Milan and Bologna – he began to contribute as a cover illustrator for many Italian magazines, including “La Lettura”,”Italia Ride”, “Il Secolo XX”, “Varietas”, “Novissima”, “Ars et Labor” and “Rapiditas”. In 1906 he began designing the billboards for the department stores of the Mele brothers in Naples for Ricordi. In these same years he also dedicated himself to illustrated postcards, and in particular to postcard-menus for restaurants and cafes: the inspiration is often his future wife Elisa Bucchi, first portrayed in photographs and then transfigured with his craft means onto postcards. In 1911 he won the selection for the poster of Marca Zenit of the Borsalino company, whose poster will be one of his best known and most recognizable works.
After the First World War he settled in Milan and set up on his own, founding the publishing company, “Star”. Here he started one of his most important collaborations: from here until the 1950s he would create a series of posters for the “seasons” of fashion, or for other events of La Rinascente department stores.
Between the 1930s and the early 1950s, he continued to work and churn out posters for the most important Italian brands, including Bugatti, Alfa Romeo, Venchi, Alemagna, Pedavena.
But it hasn’t been since the 1940s that his work has been recognized by critics, thanks to personal exhibitions which will continue and intensify until his death in 1962.

Dudovich like Toulouse-Lautrec?

To better understand the important figure of Dudovich it is perhaps better to repeat the words of the advertiser and painter Dino Villani, who approaches him for art and dedication to someone who was perhaps one of the great geniuses of modern graphics : Toulouse-Lautrec:

Even if Dudovich has carried out his activity as an illustrator with enthusiasm and with evident pleasure in newspapers and magazines, designing covers and illustrating short stories and short stories, he remains fundamentally an excellent poster artist. A poster artist who has not made or started revolutions, but has nevertheless managed to give a personal impression to his creations, where simplification never goes to the detriment of pictorial richness and painting never diminishes the subject’s visibility. In a certain sense, we can find Dudovich on the same line as Toulouse-Lautrec, since both have never wanted to give up being painters while serving the needs of advertisement. Many believed that this man from Trieste was an “easy painter” but he was not so. […] He […] paid great attention to the creation of each of his posters. After drawing a small and rapid sketch, on which he placed some spots of colour to find the tone, establish the light and then evaluate the effect, he went on to study the figure, or figures, in front of the truth. He carried out dozens and dozens of sketches until he was able to obtain natural and spontaneous shapes, expressions and movements.

The exhibition in Miramare (Trieste)

Marcello Dudovich, La Rinascente.
Dal 15 Febbraio Vendita del Bianco c. 1922-1926
Cromolitografia su carta 196,3 x 140 cm Edizioni Star – Milano Museo Nazionale Collezione Salce, Treviso
Marcello Dudovich, Donna vestita di bianco
c. 1920-1930 Stampa a bromuro d’argento seppiato 11,4 x 8,1 cm
Collezione privata, Trieste

The exhibition “Marcello Dudovich (1878-1962) photography between art and passion” will be from July 10th, 2020 to January 10th, 2021 at the former stables of Miramare Castle and presents over 300 works, including 200 unpublished vintage photographs, 32 original posters and 25 sketches, as well as magazines, letters, postcards and documents from important public and private collections.
An exhibition which – in addition to many pieces of art – also has the merit of revealing the work method of the artist from Trieste. The path makes you discover how upstream of the illustration works created for major brands, companies and magazines there is often a modest and private input, like a sketch or a photograph stolen from a friend. Among these ideas, photographs or sketches of scenes with family and friends which then became manifests, we should highlight the works for the famous creations for La Rinascente made in the 1920s and 1930s – here on the side).
An exhibition that, in addition, lets us appreciate an unpublished Dudovich: the photographer Dudovich. We can not only appreciate the relevance of photography as a prerequisite for his work as a poster artist, but also admire his shots as works of art tout court.
As for the manifests present in the exhibition, Dudovich is inspired by several subjects: life in the fields, from which he drew a series of sketches and posters of zootechnical displays, or the female universe, thanks to well-known and famous actresses who belong to the world of entertainment and who act as models. Next to these images, there is a series of works created for the cinema, that in the years of the Second World War lived a real moment of popularity.

Cover image:

Marcello Dudovich, Modella in posa riflessa nello specchio, fotografata da Dudovich,

c. 1950 Gelatina al bromuro d’argento 7 x 10 cm

Collezione privata Salvatore Galati

Target Point, Italian Ideas.