Poster, Tanzstudio Wulff, 1931
This poster is by Max Bill, a Swiss painter, sculptor, and designer who is one of the seminal figures in 20th-century Swiss graphic design and typography. Bill is most famous for his graphic interpretation of Bauhaus and constructivist ideals. His designs from the mid-1930s for the Zurich Kunstgewerbemuseum show his application of geometric forms and an ordered compositional layout directly inspired by the graphic and typographical innovations of Herbert Bayer, his mentor at the Bauhaus from 1927 to 1929.
Bill studied at the Zurich Kunstgewerbeschule from 1924 to 1927 and at the Bauhaus in Dessau from 1927 to 1929. Bill returned to Zurich in 1929, where he became instrumental in the development of the constructivist ideal in Swiss graphic design. He was the co founder and director of the Ulm School of Arts and Crafts (1931–56), an institution dedicated “to improve the quality, form and functionality of commodities made in Germany.” Bill was also the head architect of the Building and Design Sectors for the Swiss National Exhibit in Lausanne (1961–64) and was a professor at the State School for Fine Arts in Hamburg in 1967.
This poster, designed in 1931 for a series of concerts at the Stadtheater in Basel, reveals a unique episode in Bill’s graphic design and typographical career. Rather than the expected architectonic formal structure of his best known graphic designs, Bill adopted a modified Dada aesthetic appropriate for promoting a series of three performances featuring the music of Eric Satie with stage designs by Francis Picabia and Jean Cocteau. The juxtaposition of fonts, borders, and bright color embodies the startling and unconventional activity that characterizes these three plays. This poster exists in several states, as the date—in this example, April 19, 1931—was updated to advertise each performance.
The museum has a fine selection of Swiss posters designed by Josef Müller-Brockmann, Armin Hoffmann, and Wolfgang Weingart. Numerous American graphic designers, including April Greiman and Dan Friedman, who were strongly influenced by The New Typography characteristic of Swiss design in the 1950s and 1960s are also represented. The museum has earmarked Bill as one of the key designers whose work should be documented in the graphic design collection. This poster would be the first by Max Bill and also the first Swiss graphic design from the era before World War II.
 Deed of donation, 1953.
This object was
General Acquisitions Endowment: Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design Department Deaccession Fund.
It is credited
Museum purchase through gift of Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt.
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Its dimensions are
64.3 × 91 cm (25 5/16 × 35 13/16 in.)
Cite this object as
Poster, Tanzstudio Wulff, 1931; Switzerland; letterpress on white wove paper; 64.3 × 91 cm (25 5/16 × 35 13/16 in.); Museum purchase through gift of Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt; 2004-1-1