In the 1930s-40s, Lester Beall was bringing Euro avant-garde, Dada, Bauhaus and progressive lo-fi aesthetics to the US Government’s Electricity, Housing & War propaganda.
Shortly after Lester Thomas Beall (1903-1969) was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1903, his family relocated to St. Louis before settling in Chicago. Beall grew up playing with ham radios and creating his own wireless sets. He graduated with a Ph.D in the History of Fine Art and in the years following his graduation he found love. A love of European avant-garde art movements such as Surrealism, Constructivism, Bauhaus and Dadaism. Beall loved photography too & was rarely without a camera. He began a design career in 1927, moved to New York in 1935 & opened a studio in Manhattan, which he still maintained after moving to a farm in Connecticut in 1936, where he stayed until 1950. He began to develop a very distinct style. He used bold primary colors and illustrative arrows and lines in a graphic style that became easily recognizable as his own
His progressive advertising and graphic design work quickly gained international recognition and the most productive years of his career were the ’30s and ‘40s. Beall produced work for clients like the Chicago Tribune, TIME, The Art Directors Club of New York, Sterling Engraving, Hiram Walker, and Abbott Laboratories. Colliers magazine commissioned him to produce a number of promotional covers related to World War II using his by now signature photographs, (cut out Dada style), dynamic angles and shapes, and bold colours that characterized his work. Between 1937 and 1941 Beall produced some posters for the US Government’s Rural Electrification Administration.
These posters are now legendary in the US design comminity. Way ahead of their time, the posters featured minimal, saturated colors (usually the red white & blue of the Stars & Stripes), bold patterns, and photographic cut outs of everyday Americans, amp up awareness and acceptance of electricity. Beall eventually moved to rural New York and set up an office, and home, on another farm. He remained there until his death in 1969.