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Purity Washing Powder

Hungarian title:

Tisztaság különleges mosópor

Artist: Size:
Unknown artist A1 1 Sheet (cca. 55 x 84 cm)
Year: Condition:
1960 Fine, one bigger tear and strong creases at the left border, smaller tears along the border, two holes at the top.
Paper, offset.

Price: $250


‘Purity washing powder. For washing wool, silk and synthetic textiles’ – Decorative commercial poster from the 1960s. Its designer is unknown.

The poster was created to advertise the ‘Purity washing powder’ which was a typical product of the era. Numerous pieces were created in Hungarian poster art for one-time famous brands of soaps and detergents (Flora, Tátra, Hutter, Harang, etc.) since the 1920s. These were freshly modernist designs and mostly remarkable pieces, created by prominent designers, such as Róbert Berény or István Irsai. The usage of soaps had a long tradition, but when the main ingredient of them (fat) was not easily available during the World War I, washing powders already appeared, and soon started to supersede them. Later in the 1960s, when the mechanization of the household was spreading worldwide, such useful inventions were initiated in the household as fridges, vacuum cleaners or washing machines. Washing machines made the washing even easier, besides they were parts of the modern lifestyle. The connected advertisements also reflected this modernity visually.

This commercial design, however, rather evokes previous decades according to its graphical appearance. The poster depicts a strongly stylized female figure in a red dress with a white apron and a white head scarf, holding the product in one hand. She lifts the other hand up, pointing at the yellow and white script of the advertised product appears above.  Next to the figure a wooden tub can be seen with thick foam coming out of it. The trademark of the brand (a swan in a blue circle with white edge) and the remaining script is placed at the bottom. The figure appears sideways, but she is turning her head to the viewer tight, resulting in a rigid pose. She is also captured in a cartoon-like manner. The background is divided into a bright yellow part on the left and a dark blue part on the right by the body of the figure. This way the yellow script of ‘Purity’ and the yellow tub can make a decorative contrast with the blue background. Another contrast is created by the long and straight, and the short and spontaneous lines in the design. The most spectacular visual effect of the composition resides in the collective usage of few, vivid, basic colours, sharp edges, bold angles and highly emphasized flat shapes.

These characteristics can strongly remind of the modernist-constructivist commercial poster design. The style was one of the main tendencies in Hungarian poster art during the interwar period. In international poster design Constructivism was also importantly present between the early 1920s and the 1930s, represented by Rodchenko or El Lissitsky. In Hungary the modernist turn came with the posters of Lajos Kassák, Sándor Bortnyik and Róbert Berény in the late 1920s. Similarly to their works, this piece is also a dynamic composition, constructed of strong diagonals.

It is remarkable, too, that the whole design is identical with the packaging itself appearing on the poster, and the packaging shows the design again with the packaging. This self-repeating scheme is a clever and popular graphical idea. The motif of the washing woman with a wooden tub was a regular element which had long been used, too. The appearance of the washing machine only replaced the wooden tub in commercial graphical designs later, when these machines become available for ordinary people.

There is another poster in our collection which was designed for the same brand 3 years later. Its slogan changed to: 'Delicate fabrics? ...Use Purity to wash them!', but it used the original design from 1960. You can see it here: