B is For Boris

The life of Boris Grinsson could be a movie. Born a Russian Jew in 1907, he abandoned his dreams of acting to become a designer in Berlin. But then after doing an anti-Hitler poster depicting the Führer as an archangel of death in 1933, the Nazis soon came after him and he fled to rural France with his German wife. For years, he survived doing farmwork in the liberated zone, painting frescoes in dance bars, cafes, and, yes, movie theatres.

It wasn’t until after the war ended in 1944 that he was able to safely return to Paris and his one true love: designing movie posters. He joined The Synidcat, a French publicity agency, where the established veteran, Roger Soubie, got all the “A” films and Grinsson did all the “B” movies. But Boris finally found his calling as he soon became highly sought after and never met a commission he didn’t like, as he covered pretty much every genre from animated cartoons and comedies to epic period dramas and action thrillers.

A year before he died in 1999 at the age of 92, Stanislas Choko’s Galerie Intemporel organized a retrospective of his voluminous work at Espace Saint Jean in Melun, France.

Soubie Special!

While Boris Grinsson was busy doing all the “B” movie posters for The Syndicat, Roger Soubie was the A-lister at the firm. And his top ranking was well deserved as his finely depicted sexy sirens and sci-fi scenarios indeed put him on another planet.

Martine Boyer and Pierre Bourdy’s book showcases Soubie’s flamboyant style with splashes of color and insight, illuminating the artist’s substantial entry into the 2,000+ club. But as lithography was supplanted by offset printing and photography, Soubie met the same fates as those of his comrades, Bonneaud, Grinsson, and Noël, and moved onto other areas of travel and advertising design work until his death in 1984 at the age of 86.

Bonneaud Appétit!

First up from The Stanislas Choko Collection is Jacques Bonneaud, who might very well have been the first modern-day poster artist workaholic. He never took vacations as every day at dawn, he would go to work alone at his studio, utilizing his talents for composing dramatic scenes with stunning portraiture and sumptuous colors. Often described as unrelenting, monastic, and unsociable (since he had few friends in the biz) — Bonneaud was a fast worker, which was rare in the lithography world.

But all of his hard work certainly paid off! Over a 35-year career from 1922-1957, he did over 2,000 film posters — even though he wasn’t a huge movie fan. Before each assignment, he simply read the script and took a cursory look at a few B&W publicity stills before he went back to the drawing board.

Unfortunately, at age 60, his style went out of style and he spent the last remaining years of his career at a print shop designing advertising labels for dairy products. However, his gorgeous work still lives on and now you can see it all here.