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And Who, You Ask, Is Batiste Madalena?

February 3rd, 2009 (01:03 am)

© 2009
D. Gordon

There's a wonderful exhibit of Batiste Madalena posters in the lobby of the film theaters at MoMA. Madalena was hired by George Eastman to create posters for his Eastman Theater in Rochester, NY in the late 1920s. He made over 1,400 posters in a four year period, and the 250 that still survive were rescued by him from a trash heap behind the theater when it changed management in 1928.

Most of the posters are cardboard, with construction paper cutouts, tempera paint and/or pencil drawings, whatever inspired him while he was drawing. Close up you can see imperfections and revisions; but from a distance it all comes together to look striking. As Eastman told Madalena, "They have to be able to see it from the trolley." And yes, they could.

Movie Posters: The Paintings of Batiste Madalena
from amazon.com;
cover of the book Movie Posters: The Paintings of Batiste Madalena,
unfortunately now out of print

Unfortunately, there are no MoMA brochures or books on the posters. But I did get a rough list of what was on display :
  • The Unknown
  • Colleen Moore - So Big
  • Eleanor Boardman – So This Is Marriage
  • The Lost World
  • John Barrymore – Beau Brummel
  • The Boastful Braggart
  • The Covered Wagon
  • The Haunted House
  • Harold Lloyd – The Freshman
  • Greta Garbo – The Mysterious Lady
  • Beggar on Horseback
  • Pola Negri – Hotel Imperial
  • Ernest Torrance – The Cossacks
  • Renee Adoree – The Cossacks
  • John Gilbert – The Cossacks
  • Emil Jannings – Variety
  • Warwick Ward – Variety
  • Emil Jannings – The Way of All Flesh
  • Lillian Gish – The Enemy
  • Rudolph Valentino – The Eagle
  • The Thundering Herd
  • Esther Ralston – Fashions For Women
  • Richard Barthelmess – Classmates
  • The Seahawk
  • Norma Shearer – Upstage
  • A Thief in Paradise
  • Ernest Torrance – The Wanderer
  • The Pony Express
  • Dolores Del Rio – Loves of Carmen
  • Wanderer of the Wasteland
  • Leon Errol – Clothes Make the Pirate
  • Sally of the Sawdust
  • Harold Lloyd – The Kid Brother
  • Old Ironsides
  • Gloria Swanson – Madame Sans Gêne
  • Emil Jannings – The Patriot
  • Emil Jannings – The Last Command
  • The Volga Boatman / Martha Atwell Sporano : A Musical Scenic (double-sided poster)
  • Merton of the Movies
  • Laugh, Clown, Laugh
  • Underworld
  • Lon Chaney – The Unknown
  • Richard Barthelmess - The Noose

Most of the films are lost, but Loves of Carmen and Variety are playing at MoMA next weekend. Hmmm...