Journal: Raymond Savignac: Always Just Right

Raymond Savignac: Always Just Right

By Ryan Connolly
October 7, 2014

With regards to legendary poster artist Mr. Raymond Savignac, an expert admirer once acclaimed, “There was a certain sparkle about everything he did. It was always just right.”

Born in Paris in 1907, Savignac grew up a boy unsure of where life would take him. Knowing full well he wanted to stay away from the family restaurant business, he found a job at just fifteen-years old coloring bus maps, which quickly spawned into a gig working on cartoon films for commercials.

It wasn’t until his 42nd year that he considered his “big break” to have come in the form of a soap advertisement known as “Monsavon Au Lait”. The advertisement depicted a cow standing over the company’s bar of soap–with milk streaming from its udders to represent the main ingredient in their product. If that sounds a bit humorous to you, it should–and for good reason. Savignac prided himself on his ability to inject a dash of humor into his artwork, going as far as to credit Mr. Charlie Chaplin as his intellectual inspiration.

Ironically, despite his humorous output, Savignac was a rather pessimistic man. According to French newspaper Le Monde, a young Savignac told his future mentor, A. M. Cassandre, that he was “unemployed and feeling suicidal” when he sought an apprenticeship with the advertising great. Even after years of success he regularly submitted to the notion that it was “nonsensical” to refer to his commercial pieces as artwork. Many years later, speaking again to Le Monde in his old age, Savignac referred to himself as “an old brontosaurus who does a job for a species that’s well on its way to extinction.”

Regardless of his particularly dark outlook on life, Savignac never strayed from his bubbly trademark style. As an apprentice he quickly discovered the necessity to include a human element in his work; and even when his pieces contained only animals, they were sure to still show a facet of human emotion through their facial expressions. His elegance was ever-so simple yet vibrantly colorful, and the uncomplicated nature of his posters quickly caught the attention of all who passed by.

As evidenced by his seemingly endless array of advertisements, Savignac never cornered himself into working on any one specific product. From shampoo to shoe-polish and aspirin to automobiles, Savignac did it all.

Dunlop Tires commissioned what was arguably his most famous piece of automobilia, with his artwork simply depicting four rolling Dunlop tires and a cheery motorist floating along in the center. In 1959, he also put together an advertisement for launch of the highly successful Renault R4 (Renault’s response to the Citroën 2CV) – where the petit front-wheel drive economy car traveled in a cartoonish fashion across steeply peaked rolling hills.

Mr. Savignac passed away at his French home in 2002 at the age of 94. He defined poster art as “the creation of a fleeting image which people will not forget.” Considering his great staying power even today, one would be hard-pressed to disagree with him.

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P Joseph Maffey
P Joseph Maffey
9 years ago

As an aspiring designer, I appreciate these articles. The products, brands and the associated media are very much a part of the automotive culture. For those without a driving license, the art could be even more important than cars themselves.

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