The Typographical Renewal


Geographic Area: Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Spain

Related Fonds and Collections: Dexel-Schuitema-Zwart CollectionFortunato Depero CollectionBauhaus Collection

Related Exhibitions: La idea de arteThe Avantgarde Applied (1890-1950)

Coinciding with a series of rapidly unfolding advances, in the early 20th century publication of numerous volumes on typography unleashed an intense and hugely creative process of renewal which would last several decades and encompass a wide spectrum of countries. The Lafuente Archive has brought together an exhaustive number of materials, most of them printed, that document this change. The collection presents the particular feature of including first editions of the manuals and essays that fueled that revolutionary current.

At the technical level, the movement started out by seeking models of industrial printing that responded to criteria of modernity and productivity. It also sought to simplify the types, legibility and semantic transparency of signs. Simultaneously, from 1909 to 1915, the Futurist doctrine of “plastic dynamism” broke down traditional preconceptions of visual communication by introducing asymmetrical compositions, spatial simultaneity and the juxtaposition of words, images and graphic elements. All of which would combine with a wealth of other resources to lend the printed page dynamism, producing sensations of speed and bringing to mind the world of machines. Indeed, in his famous manifesto L’immaginazione senza fili e le Parole in Libertà, Marinetti pondered the resolution of all these questions with the explicit concept of “typographical revolution”.

For their part, around 1920 the Russian and Dutch Constructivists were focusing on analysis of the technical structure and functionality of elements that made up the printed page. Their compositions were based on geometrical rigor and, in addition to typographical elements, employed photographs and photomontages. Meanwhile, in Germany the treatises Topographie der Typographie, by El Lissitzky, and the special edition of the magazine Elementare Typographie, written and designed by Jan Tschichold, constituted two of the most significant theoretical-practical contributions of the decade. At the same time, Paul Renner caused similar impact, in this case in the field of typographical design, with design and publication of his Futura typeface, created between 1925 and 1927 and inspired in the purity of geometric shapes.

From 1927 to 1930, experiments and initiatives in typographical renewal similar to those in Germany continued in both Europe and America. This was especially evident in advertising, a field in which the figure of the Italian Fortunato Depero soon rose to fame. His publication Depero Futurista completely subverted the traditional principles of typographical composition and the conventional book format, becoming one of the bibliographic landmarks of the 20th century.

While the Bauhaus was expanding new ideas from Germany, from 1925 to 1940 various figures in other European countries were creating some outstanding works of typography and typographical composition. The quality of pieces by the illustrator and poster designer José Renau made them stand out in Civil War-torn Spain, while in the Netherlands Piet Zwart, Hendrik Nicolaas Werkmann and Paul Schuitema were rising to fame; and in Czechoslovakia Karel Teige and Ladislav Sutnar; in Russia, Varvara Stepanova and the previously mentioned El Lissitzky; in Poland, Władysław Strzemiński, and the list goes on.


Josef Albers - Herbert Bayer - Fortunato Depero - Walter Dexel - Theo van Doesburg - Lyonel Feininger - Vasily Kandinsky - Paul Klee - El Lissitzky - Filippo Tommaso Marinetti - László Moholy-Nagy - Paul Renner - Paul Schuitema - Kurt Schwitters - Władysław Strzemiński - Karel Teige - Jan Tschichold - Piet Zwart