ART AS A MEANS TO AN END BY EARNEST ELMO CALKINS 1 Twenty-five years ago a roughneck client told me with unnecessary emphasis, "I'd rather have a good photograph than all the pictures your artist friends can draw." Today that same man or his successor is holding back against the so-called modern istic treatment of advertising design and standing up stoutly for the realism of the older school of painting. But in the mean while that stalwart symbol of things as they really are, the camera, has gone in for mod ernism and is showing that even to the truthful eye of the lens things look different when seen from different angles. And thus from the very beginning con troversy has raged around the use of what is loosely called "art" for advertising and for other business purposes. As once the argument was whether a photograph made a better picture from the point of selling goods than a painting so today there are two schools plugging with equal energy for ultra- realism or ultra-modernism. And next year there will be new methods, techniques, ten dencies, for advertising art must ever be seeking something new. Unlike that of any other in the realm of aesthetics it is subject to intense constant scrutiny and experiment, and each fresh innovation adopted by the radicals is in turn first resisted by the con servatives, then tolerated, and finally copied until it too becomes old stuff and the van guard are already in full cry after something newer. Of course where anything is as much dis cussed as art in advertising there is bound to be a lot of nonsense talked and also the debaters are apt to lose sight of the main fact that art when applied to advertising is after all merely a means to an end, and that end is the selling of the goods. Photographs or paintings, realistic or modernistic, it is never a question of what you or I or the advertiser may like best as art, but a question of how useful it can be in the particular advertising under discussion. To decide that question, it is necessary to consider not only its appro priateness, its adaptability to the article ad vertised but also the context, the background against which it will appear. What compe tition has it from other advertisements? Is it a poster, a magazine page or a folder? Is the proposed design or technique the one that will best present the goods, and if so, is it one that will achieve distinction and at traction in the spot where it will be used? The discussion is hindered or helped as the case may be, by the fact that one party to it is the advertiser himself, whose goods it is that are to be advertised, and whose money it is that will pay not only for the art, but the plates, and the space in which it 17

Advertising Arts en | 1930 | | page 27