ADOLPH TREIDLER (1886-1981) was one of the most influential illustrators and poster designers of the twentieth century, and a highly successful commercial artist whose work for the Bermuda Trade Development Board in the 1930s helped put that island on the map as a popular tourist destination. The noted American artist and architectural historian Andrew Zega called him “arguably the nation’s most outstanding poster artist,” and his illustrations appeared in or graced the covers of many of the nation’s most prominent magazines of the previous century, including McClure’s (where his work first appeared in 1908),Century, Scribner’s, The Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s, Woman’s Home Companion, and Harper’s. (By the time of his death in 1981, he had produced over 200 covers for the aforementioned periodicals.) Besides the Bermuda Trade Development Board and his work promoting the American government’s efforts during both World Wars, his commercial accounts were many and varied, including Pierce-Arrow Automobiles, Chesterfield Cigarettes, Furness Cruises, New York Central Lines, The French Line, Spear and Company Patrician Caps, A &P Supermarkets, Wells Fargo, Pan-American Airways, and Irish Airlines. It has been said of him that he was “surprisingly versatile when it came to style. The posters dealing with Bermuda would seem to have been done by another artist than the one who did the World War 2 poster. And it might have been a third artist who did the Chesterfield ad art and a fourth who worked for Pierce-Arrow. But of course it was all Treidler.” (ArtContrarian.Blogspot.com, January 28, 2013.) In addition to his posters and illustrations, for which he was primarily known, he also painted seascapes and landscapes, mainly watercolors.
Treidler was born in Westcliffe, Colorado on August 27, 1886. According to a memoir he wrote for Automobile Quarterly (Third Quarter, 1976), his family moved to various mining towns in that state until leaving for San Francisco around 1898. While in his teens Treidler worked for an advertising agency, and from 1902 to 1904 attended the California School of Design. He experienced the 1906 earthquake and fire before departing for Chicago, gaining employment there as an artist at the Chicago Tribune newspaper. Following a year and a half stay he moved on to New York, where one of his paintings that happened to include a Pierce-Arrow automobile caught the eye of a man who soon became an art director at the Calkins and Holden advertising agency, which held the Pierce-Arrow account. (Pierce-Arrow was one of the leading manufacturers of luxury cars at the turn of the previous century, achieving for a time the stature of status symbol for many Hollywood stars and tycoons.) Shortly thereafter Treidler’s career “took off like a rocket.” (Art Contrarian) The Pierce-Arrow “brand” became readily identified with Treidler’s artistic and understated illustrations, and his close relationship with the company (lasting until its rapid decline in the early 1930s) was rivaled only by his intimate relationship with Bermuda. In hisAutomobile Quarterly memoir Treidler recalled that “my days with Pierce-Arrow spoiled me. Never once in my long association with the company did Pierce-Arrow return one of my paintings for changes or corrections. They were always pleased, and I, of course, was delighted.”
In 1909 Treidler enrolled in Painting and Life Drawing classes at the Henri School of Art in New York City, run by the renowned American painter and teacher Robert Henri (1865-1929). Henri was the leading organizer of an association of artists who protested the restrictive exhibition practices of the powerful, conservative National Academy of Design. He urged his friends and followers to seek out a new, more realistic art form other than Impressionism, something that would speak directly to their own time and experience. He believed that the time had come for American painters to explore fresh, less genteel subject matter, the kind you would truly find in the modern American city. This gritty form of Realism ultimately became known as the “Ashcan School,” and included fellow artists such as William Glackens, George Luks, Everett Shinn, and John Sloan. In 1908 Henri organized a landmark show called “The Eight” at the Macbeth Galleries in New York. The show, intended as a protest against the exhibition policies and narrowness of taste of the National Academy of Design, later traveled to several cities. It is indeed plausible to suggest that some of Treidler’s later, grittily realistic watercolors (such as his Bermuda-based scenes of a quarryman sawing stone, a dockworker napping on a bale, and Royal Navy sailors taking a crowded carriage-ride) were influenced by his time spent with Henri.
During both major world conflicts of the twentieth century, Treidler put his artistry to use as an advocate for the American government’s war efforts. His World War 1 posters for the United War Work Campaign focused on the purchase of “Liberty Loans” and on supporting the homefront’s manufacturing efforts, particularly the women working in munitions plants. Serving as Chairman of the Pictorial Publicity Committee of the Society of Illustrators during the Second World War, he again reached out in support of women in the wartime workplace (this time garnishing support for Women Ordinance Workers, AKA W.O.Ws), as well as producing posters which induced citizens to purchase war bonds.
Over the course of his long career Treidler gained membership to many prestigious artistic organizations, including the Art Directors’ Club, the Society of Illustrators, the Artists‘ Guild (Charter Member; President, 1936-37), and the Society of Illustrators (Life Member). His work was exhibited at the Whitney Museum in New York in 1923 and the Art Institute of Chicago in 1930.
No biography of Treidler would be complete without a discussion of his association with the island of Bermuda; his reputation as one of the foremost commercial artists of his era has its foundation in his relationship with the Bermuda Trade Development Board, with which he first forged a relationship in 1933, offering to create a poster for them for $125. Noting that he was “one of the best Poster Artists of the present day,” (TDB Minutes, July 11, 1933) the offer was accepted. His Traffic Cop and Golf Club pictures arrived in January, 1934. (It is unclear whether they were used as posters or merely as magazine advertisements.) Following a visit to the island with his wife to make further sketches, he created a much noticed, double-paged Bermuda advertisement in the New York Herald Tribune.(The May 6, 1934 edition of the Royal Gazette called the ad “brilliant.”) In 1935 he and his wife visited again, spending three weeks in "Cedar Lodge" in Paget (at the time, part of the nearby Inverurie Hotel). That same year one of his watercolors was featured in a TDB advertisement in Fortune magazine. It was one of at least two instances where he re-worked images that are better known from his published art-prints (the other being an image of the Yacht Club), adding-in people to make the pictures more eye-catching in a magazine context. Several of Treidler’s watercolors were featured prominently in the TDB’s deluxe 1936 Residence in Bermuda book (while others appeared in promotional brochures of the mid 1930s and beyond). In 1938 Treidler garnered a good deal of praise and attention for the innovative posters which he crafted for the Furness Bermuda Line. (Furness was a steamship-cruise line that offered New York to Bermuda service, reaching its zenith in popularity in the years preceding the Second World War. The company had two magnificent ocean liners: the “Monarch of Bermuda” and the “Queen of Bermuda.” They became known as the “millionaire’s ships,” because they provided the ultimate in luxury for their day, with private service inside the cabins.) Rather than being painted, the posters were assembled from carefully-cut segments of variously-colored paper, pasted onto a white ground. One of these, a beach scene, won a special award at an exhibition at Radio City, New York, organized by Transit Advertisers (who handled advertisements at mass-transit stations). Throughout his career Treidler created a variety of posters for Furness, “each featuring bold, saturated blocks of color combined with simple yet enticing graphics. Many of them showcase the two most popular ships of the fleet - the “Queen of Bermuda” and the “Monarch of Bermuda" - set against Bermuda’s lush skyline.” (Invaluable.com, accessed September 12, 2015) Treidler visited Bermuda again in the summer of 1945 to consider new poster-design subjects, and toward the end of that year he painted murals at the TDB’s new premises at Rockefeller Centre, New York, which were opened in 1946. Similar displays were produced at the TDB offices in Toronto (1954) and London (1955). The displays were in the form of a Bermuda cottage and terrace, with a cedar tree, beach, and coastline painted behind. He spent the early summer of 1946 on the island, painting local scenery and finishing some further posters for the TDB. Treidler also did a 1946 brochure cover for the Bank of Bermuda, depicting its main office. In 1947, American Artistmagazine featured his stylized Bermuda scene of a carriage and seaside cottage on its cover. During his 1950 visit he exhibited some of his paintings from previous trips at the Art Association Galleries. In 1954 he painted a mural of a St. Georges’ street for the TDB’s Toronto office, while 1955 saw him doing murals (including a view of Somerset Bridge) for the TDB’s London office. As late as 1958 he produced two new posters for the TDB, and another three for Furness, as well as a series of paintings for a Bermuda brochure published by the Trimingham Brothers Department Store.
In his reference-book, Bermuda in Painted Representation, Volume 2,Jonathan Land Evans has posited the belief that “of all the artists who worked in Bermuda in the 1930s, none was more closely or enduringly associated with the island’s image than Adolph Treidler... His sunny evocations of a quaint, subtropical elegance were underpinned by a shrewd and sophisticated understanding of the science of advertising, and in particular by the importance of brand-building and continuity. In his various paintings for the TDB and the Furness Bermuda Line, he distilled the island’s charms into a readily identifiable advertising brand, helping Bermuda to distinguish itself as being a cut above its growing number of competitors for the tourist dollar.” Today, Treidler’s posthumous reputation continues to grow, with many of his posters now highly prized as collector’s items.
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