Leonetto Cappiello Biography

Born in the Italian resort town of Livorno, Italy. Cappiello ( 1875- -1942) had a natural talent for drawing, and his first ambition was to be a great painter. He started studying art with a painter’s career in mind, but meanwhile, purely as a hobby, he would make a quick sketch of anybody who caught his attention -- relatives, home town characters, an occasional interesting tourist. Soon, he found that these quick caricatures were always favorably received, and by the time he was 21, he was able to make a little money by having the best of these homespun drawings published in booklet form.

With few exceptions, Cappiello used two printer-agents for his work: up to World War I, it was Vercasson, where he developed the principles of his style; after that, it was Devambez, where he continued to apply them with an even greater flair and bolder imagination. The key to his approach was always image association --the idea that you don’t really remember the image of the product itself, but the image of something that is associated with the product. Thus, if you are shown the picture of an old-fashioned phonograph with a listening horn, you don’t think of any particular brand as it could be any of a dozen names; but if you see a small white dog listening to it attentively, the brand name --RCA Victor--will flash to your mind instantly, involuntarily, because the association had been firmly established there. Cappiello was the first who thoroughly understood this, and he applied it with commendable diligence in his works of a thousand posters.