I thought I’d bring our readers' attention to a really interesting but unassuming book that might ordinarily slip by their collective gaze.
‘The Muse in the Wheels’ illustrates the history of Pirelli communication, drawing on its archive collection of original sketches and drawings (from 1872 to 1972), which is being shown for the first time in its entirety.
It makes for a wonderful book, full of inspired designs and surprising content.
To set the scene, the relationship between Pirelli and its artists is a long one, formed right from its earliest days, but it was in the early years of the twentieth century that the company started its first advertising campaigns with artists, such as Marcello Dudovich, Aldo Mazza and Leonetto Cappiello, in a variety of styles and registers. These were characterised by the constant presence of the Long P, which became a distinctive feature of Pirelli advertising from 1907 onwards.
In the 1930s Pirelli started planning its own advertising campaigns, with the very latest in graphic trends and, in the post-war period, it reached its highest level of advertising communication. This was based on the integration of technical and humanistic culture, a combination that was also perfectly conveyed through the pages of Pirelli magazine, with contributions by important intellectuals, journalists, writers and poets on issues related to technology and industry as well as to art, cinema, literature and architecture. The greatest names in Italian graphic design, as well as some of the greatest international draughtsmen, worked on advertising for Pirelli products, helping to create an authentic ‘Pirelli style’ in communication, which came to symbolise quality, innovation and experimentation.
The book contains over 450 works made by over 200 world-famous artists (among them Fortunato Depero, Michael Pavel Engelmann, Renato Guttuso, Max Huber, Lora Lamm, Riccardo Manzi, Alessandro Mendini, Giovanni Mosca, Bruno Munari, Bob Noorda, Albe Steiner, Armando Testa, Pino Tovaglia and Massimo Vignelli) to advertise Pirelli products, to illustrate Pirelli magazine, or to celebrate the anniversaries of the industrial group. This heritage represents a cross-section of Pirelli’s corporate culture but also, in more general terms, the history of the figurative arts, of graphic design and of corporate communication.