Zermatt Matterhorn by Emil Cardinaux 1908
This trendsetting, 103 x 73cm poster by Emil Cardinaux was created as part of a comission by the Zermatt Tourist office to create an advertisement for the ski resort of Zermatt. In response to the commission he produced 6 similar advertisement cards, which also served as very popular collectible items. Soon his work became highly recognizable, a popular feature in schools and workplaces and a highly saught after collectible in later years. Here, in this story, we will discuss what influenced the piece and what made it such a revolutionary success.
What influenced this piece?
Emil Cardinaux’s poster of Zermatt’s famous Matterhorn used lithography techniques to create the iconic image that became so popular during it’s release in 1908 and by many it was considered to be ‘the first truly modern Swiss poster.’ From my own observation i noticed that the piece has been inspired by the Art Nouveau (known as Jugendstil in Germany) movement which, from 1890 to 1910, exhibited similar styles of clean lines and block colored sections. However it can also be noted that this piece managed to simultaneously propose a fresh brand of art that had not been widely seen before and acted as a trendsetting piece for the beginning of the new century. With many artists attempting to replicate this new style (see Design Impacts of the piece).
The direct influence on the piece can be linked back to when Cardinaux was introduced to printer Johann Edwin Wolfensberger in 1904, where he was first shown the art of poster making and various printing techniques. It was then, that he picked up the skill of lithography, a form of printing based on repelling wax and ink to transfer a final image. Cardinaux then proceeded use these new techniques to produce six mono-cards as commissioned by the Zermatt tourist office, one of which was the famous depiction of Matterhorn. J.E Wolfensberger in fact helped print this paticular piece which lead to the strikingly similar style his own pieces had (As shown in image on left).
It can also be noted that Cardinoux took inspiration from the work of popular Swiss artist Ferdinand Hodler. Holder’s paintings of the Swiss Alps featured similar defined, triangular peaks painted bold against the sky while the simple colour palette is also a frequent characteristic in both pieces. In both Cardinoux’s and Hodlers piece’s the bold lines that shape the mountains create similar horizon patterns.
This particular piece by Cardinaux generated a lot of popularity and excitement which turned the posters into highly saught after collectible items. It’s attractive qualities can be linked to its simplistic and direct nature, making it easily recognizable as Zermatt’s most iconic tourist destination. The piece therefore becomes successful in serving as an advertisement, for which is was originally commissioned, and a popular collectible item for which is was designed to be.
The muted and limited colour palette consists of just 4 main colours; orange, black, grey and purple. This mix of colours really allow the mountain to stand out against the background and foreground which in turn create a warm atmospheric environment and an attractive advertisement for this tourist destination.
The text for the piece is also simplistic with just 4 words in a informal sans serif font. This choice of typography makes the piece seem inviting and ties in with the relaxed, hand drawn nature of the piece. The orange tones of the words ‘Zermatt’ create a visual link between the bottom of the poster to the top of the mountains.
The composition of the piece draws all attention to the bold, clear triangular outline of the mountain itself and this can be accredited for it’s immediately recodnisable depiction. The low point of view that the piece takes on, creates an intense atmosphere and emphisises the height of the mountain itself therefore creating an attractive poster for the Swiss destination.
Social and Design impacts of the piece
Swiss posters marking a new era of style
In 1910, what marked the end of the Art Nouvouea period was immediately followed by the rise in popularity of “Swiss posters”, a style of poster similar to that of Cardinoux and whom can most likely take credit for the new rise in style. This style of posters exhibited very similar compositions with bold, colurful images often with matching bold, block lettering at the top or bottom of the piece.
The collection of pieces Carninoux produced for Zermatt led to many artists to be inspired by it and many artists such as Mangold and Stoecklin began to replicate the pieces and were soon both considered masters of creating this new brand of ‘Swiss Posters.’
The piece also had great social influence, with the bills’s instantly making the Zermatt a popular tourist destination. People also began to incorporate the piece into interior design by adorning their homes, schools and work places with the posters which resulted in high demand for cheaper replicas. The posters were soon highly recodnisable and created a benchmark for new posters being created at the time.