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 Adolphe Jean-Marie Cassandre  (1901 - 1968)

/ kas-AHN-dr(uh)/


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Lived/Active: New York / France/Ukraine/Russian Federation      Known for: art deco, poster designer, lithographs

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The work of Adolphe Jean-Marie Mouron Cassandre is seen by some as a bridge between the modern fine arts and the commercial arts in the first half of the 20th century.  Cassandre worked as a painter, poster and theater designer, lithographer, typeface designer, as well as a teacher.  Although mainly based in Paris, he spent time between 1936 and 1938 living in New York.

It is perhaps Cassandre's posters that are best recognized.  He felt that poster art was for the painter, a way of "finding again the lost contact with public.  A poster, unlike a painting, is not meant to be easily distinguished by its 'manner' - a unique specimen conceived to satisfy the demanding tastes of a single more or less enlightened art lover." (

Born in Kharkov, Ukraine, Russia, to French parents, Cassandre lived between France and Russia until the first World War.  He settled in Paris in 1915, and studied art at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the Academie Julian, and also at the independent studio of Lucien Siron.  His painting was influenced by the work of Paul Cezanne. He also studied at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere, and the Ateliers Libres de Montparnasse.

In 1922 he moved to his first studio in Paris, in Montparnasse.  He decided to sign the advertising designs he created with the pseudonym 'Cassandre', which he sometimes combined (up to 1928) with the name Mouron.  In 1925 he won the first prize at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs, which established his reputation.

He married his first wife, Madeleine Cauvet, in 1924, niece of a pioneer of France's automobile industry.  During the late 1920s, working for various companies, he designed noted posters and typefaces.  Toward the end of 1933, he made his debut as a painter for the theater.  That same year, Cassandre took a teaching position at the Ecole Nationale des Arts Décoratifs; however, the graphic advertising studio he taught in soon had to close its doors for lack of funds.  Between 1934 and 1935, he taught at a graphic arts school in Paris.

After a retrospective exhibition of his posters at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in January 1936, Cassandre signed a contract with Harper's Bazaar to create magazine covers, working for Alexy Brodovitch.  He also created designs for the ad agency NW Ayers.  He spent the winters of 1936-37 and 1937-38 in New York. Cassandre designed several projects for posters, but only a few of them were actually published.

Inspired by his meeting with the painter Balthus (French realist painter Balthasar Klossowski de Rola) in 1936, he began to devote a good deal of his time and energy to easel painting, which he had begun in New York.  His work was exhibited in Paris, and from 1942 to the mid 1950s, he neglected his poster art almost entirely in favor of painting and set design.  None of the paintings of this period, however, are known to still exist.

On the completion of his work in New York in 1938, Cassandre settled again in Paris.  He divorced his first wife and joined the army when World War II was declared.  He was demobilized in 1940, and resumed work on his painting.  In 1941 he met Nadine Robinson, a dress designer, whom he married in 1947.  The couple divorced in 1954.

His later years were filled with poverty and depression, despite his considerable achievements.  Many of his posters are well known today, such as Watch the Fords Go By (1937).  Cassandre's sleek designs of towering ships and speeding trains are still considered to be quintessential Art Deco images.  He was concerned with precision and strong images.  Many of his posters were figurative, but show a Surrealist influence.  His work has been exhibited worldwide.

After a first suicide attempt in 1967, Cassandre took his life in his apartment on the Avenue René-Coty in Paris on June 17, 1968.

Sources:; cerutti miller; linotype library; international roots company.

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Adolphe Cassandre is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Art Deco

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