Harper’s Bazaar Cover Designed by Brodovitch, July 1946


Fig. 9, Dye, D, (1946), Harper’s Bazaar Cover, July 1946 [ONLINE]. Available at: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/112308584431577225/ [Accessed 17 March 15].

Extract from a thesis written by Sofia Arvanius for her final year studying for a BA in Visual Communication titled How has the image of women changed over time in the fashion magazine industry in America, looking specifically at the covers of the US magazine, Vogue, between the years of its first publication in 1892 until the present day?

In Figure 9 we can see one of the experimental cover designs created under the art direction of Alexey Brodovitch. It is the cover of Harper’s Bazaar from July 1946. According to Kerry Williams Purcell, Brodovitch was a designer, photographer and teacher who worked as an art director for Harper’s Bazaar magazine for 15 years between the 1940s and the 1960s. (Purcell. 2014) He contributed to much of the content in the magazine bringing together graceful typographic layouts with experimental design trends in photography. His style became widely popular in the 1940s and 1950s. Purcell talks about how he was one of the leading designers in America to bring ideas from modernism into his work as can be seen in fig. 9. (Purcell, 2014) (Gallagher, 2007)

On the cover of the magazine in fig. 9 we simply see a hand reaching out for two butterflies. This is moving away from the tradition of featuring an image of a woman, illustrated or photographed, on the front of the magazine to a new era of experimental cover design. The cover nevertheless suggests an interesting concept of the woman. The year is 1946 and World War II ended the previous year. According to Universe of Symbolism the butterfly symbolises transcendence and the journey to freedom, as a butterfly needs to leave everything it knows as a caterpillar behind in order to become itself. (Universe of Symbolism, 2015) The Library of Congress writes in their article ‘The Post War United States, 1945-1968’ about how almost every aspect of life changed for the people of America during the Second World War. Post World War II, the American economy prospered, but not everyone reaped the benefits equally. American women, along with Hispanic and African Americans, became more aggressive in pursuing their right to full freedoms and equal civil rights as the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution guaranteed. It is unclear however whether the cover in fig. 9 is suggesting a woman reaching out for freedom or if we are seeing freedom slip away from her. This is probably an intentionally ambiguous statement as no one can be sure of what will happen in the future. Furthermore, women from different backgrounds and class in society would have gained different amounts of freedom. (Library of Congress, 2012)  (Gallagher, 2007)

Gallagher, J. G.. (2007). Alexey Brodovitch: 1934-1958. Available: http://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/features/a94/bazaar-140-0607/. Last accessed 19 March 2015.

Library of Congress. (2012). The Postwar United States, 1945-1968. Available: http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/timeline/postwar/. Last accessed 17 March 2015

Purcell, K.W. (2011). Alexey Brodovitch. Available: http://www.iconofgraphics.com/alexey-brodovitch/. Last accessed 25 Feb 2015.

Purcell, K.W. (2011). Alexey Brodovitch. America: Phaidon Press. 272.


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