Léon Benigni (1892–1948)
Benigni's work exemplifies the Art Deco movement. He is best known for the poster Brides les Bains
, a masterpiece of the style.
1931 saw him bring elegance, via his refined line, to the Cadillac advertising campaign.
Cadillac had a choice of how to address the dismal economic situation facing its 1931 lineup of vehicles. They could tuck their marketing tails and weather the storm, or they could go long. They went to Europe.
Their French connection was Léon Bénigni (1892-1948), a talented illustrator who had already produced ads for Cadillac; these appeared in 1930 French publications. He was better known as a fashion illustrator, draftsman, lithographer and illustrator who worked primarily in the Art Deco style. His 1929 poster, Brides les Bains
, remains a favorite of art collectors. He also produced fashion illustrations for Chanel, Lucien Lelong, Molyneux and Patou.
We'd offer up additional info, but that's the extent of our Bénigni knowledge. What we do know is that once we began searching for ads in this series, the floodgates opened and we were astonished by the number of illustrations used, the variety of vehicles included and the mixture of publications in which they appeared. The use of gold and silver metallic inks makes the series truly unforgettable, not to mention really expensive to produce.
Ads ran in at least 17 magazines; all the major business, travel, fashion, fiction and lifestyle publications. Black-and-white ad variations also appeared.
Cadillac fairly evenly distributed coverage on its V-8, V-12 and V-16 models. No less than 12 body styles were featured, from two-passenger roadsters and convertible coupes to all-weather phaetons; touring cars and the massive Fleetwood-bodied Transformable Town Brougham, with its rear body canework.
Venues depicted were straight out of travel magazines; an airport (with a Ford Tri-motor); hiking (in Scotland?); lounging at the beach; resting against a palm tree; sightseeing (our guess: Morocco, with a French Foreign Legion officer escort). Social gatherings abounded; a garden party, the botanical gardens, cocktails on a city rooftop terrace, lunch at a sidewalk café, an evening at the opera (is that the Metropolitan?).
Activities range from walking the family Borzoi (summer) and strolling a city sidewalk (winter) to participating in a fox hunt and a wild game hunt (though we couldn't tell if that's a North American stag deer or an exotic antlered African whatchamacallit). When one tired of such, one simply watched the polo match or the racing shells from a distance.
To date, we've found 16 illustrations (in up to six color and car body varieties each); 12 automotive body styles (in various color combinations) appearing in 17 magazines with publication dates from May through December, 1931 (plus several unidentified) for a current total of 41 Cadillac and 20 La Salle variations.
www.hemmings.com | Hemmings Motor News - June, 2010