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Object Timeline

  • We acquired this object.

1916

  • Work on this object began.

1924

  • Work on this object ended.

2021

Reproduction, Cotton Bale Labels

This is a Reproduction. It was designed by E. McKnight Kauffer and made for (as the client) Steinthal & Co. Ltd. It is dated 1916–1924. Its medium is facsimiles of 35 lithographs. It is a part of the department.

Kauffer’s first commercial commission after his Underground posters came from a Manchester-based cotton exporter. Kauffer designed labels for cotton bales sent to Latin America. He treated these labels as mini travel posters, portraying sunny, exoticized locales that he drew from reference photographs. His graphic style and depiction of figures was derived almost directly from the posters he had seen in Munich, Germany. Ultimately, Kauffer designed eight different groups of labels over 12 years.

Inspired by German poster artists, Kauffer used flat color patterning to express modernity in his commercial art. Germany, like Great Britain, was a colonial power whose advertising often featured people from Asia, Africa, and the Arab world in servile roles. Skin tone and facial features were exaggerated to emphasize otherness. Kauffer actively adopted this racialization, at times copying explicitly from German designers, including Ludwig Hohlwein.

It is credited Images courtesy of Simon Rendall, photography by Hugh Gilbert.

Its dimensions are

each H x W (approx.): 16.1 × 10.3 cm (6 5/16 × 4 1/16 in.)

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://www-4.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/2318805201/ |title=Reproduction, Cotton Bale Labels |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=30 November 2021 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>