Kauffer, E. McKnight (Edward McKnight), 1890-1954

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Artist and graphic designer.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : London, to Messrs. Duckworth & Co., 1922, Nov 12. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 759590617

Edward McKnight Kauffer (b. Dec. 14, 1890, Great Falls, Montana-d. Oct. 22, 1954, New York City) was an American-born artist noted for his avant garde graphic design and poster art, especially in Britain.

From the description of Kauffer, E. McKnight (Edward McKnight), 1890-1954 (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration). naId: 10569395

Edward McKnight Kauffer (1891-1954) was born at Great Falls, Montana. He grew up in the small town of Evansville on the Ohio River in Indiana, where the Kauffer grandparents had settled. After the divorce of his parents, he spent two years in an orphanage. By the age of four or five he had begun to draw. His mother remarried in 1899. Kauffer left school at the age of 12 or 13 to be helper to the scene painter in the City Directory.

In the Elder Bookshop and Art Rooms in San Francisco Kauffer acquired not only a speaking voice of marked attractiveness and distinction but also a life-long passion for books. He continued his studies as a painter by receiving his first formal training at evening sessions at the Mark Hopkins Institute. He met Professor McKnight, who became his patron; in homage to him Kauffer adopted the name of McKnight. A small exhibition of Kauffer's paintings was held at the Elder Art Rooms. He also studied at the Chicago Art Institute, and in Munich and Paris, and started his career as a theatrical scene painter. He was returning from Germany to this country in 1914 and was in London when World War I broke out.

In 1914 Kauffer would marry American Pianist, Grace Ehrlich and they would have a daughter. In 1921 Kauffer would move to New York City leaving his wife and daughter. In the spring of 1922 Kauffer returned to London with Marion Dorn, American textile designer. They would stay in London just prior to the beginning of World War II when they would return once again to New York. They would eventually marry in 1950.

In the Twenties in London, he went to work in a soldiers' canteen and began designing posters for the London Underground Railway in his spare time. His posters were so strikingly successful that he soon got further orders, and built up a reputation in his field. The posters would indicate to the war-weary British the normal resumption of public transportation. The posters made history in art circles and have been regarded ever since as revolutionary concepts of art-cum industry. A 1926 exhibition given at the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford furthered Kauffers notoriety.

His recognition in America began in 1937, when the Museum of Modern Art presented his work in its first one-man show ever given to an American poster designer. He returned to this country to live in 1940. While Kauffer was widely recognized abroad and the MOMA show brought attention, very few Americans knew of him and fewer advertisers were willing to accept the poster as an art form. His clients, since his return to America have included the National Red Cross, American Airlines, the New York Subways, Ringling Brothers Circus, the Container Corporation of America, the American Silk Mills and many others.

Kauffer was among the first in the early Twenties to respond to the impact of modern art, particularly the work of the cubist painters Picasso and Braque. The influence of cubism can be seen in his posters and was the basis of his dynamic geometrical style. The emphatic angular forms of Kauffer's posters shocked the public into attention. His artistry, and in particular his color sense, held that attention and, in a few short years just after the First World War, laid the foundations of his reputation as a designer, not only among the leading business men of the time, but particularly among critics and art students. T.S. Eliot, a friend of Kauffer's, describes his marriage of the public and modern art, "He did something for modern art with the public as well as doing something for the public with modern art."

In addition to his involvement in advertising, Kauffer was a book illustrator as well illustrating editions of many classics, including Burton's "Anatomy of Melancholy," Cervantes' "Don Quixote," Carl Van Vechten's "Nigger Heaven," and works by Herman Melville, T.S. Eliot, Arnold Bennett, Lord Birkenhead and others.

His work is represented in the South Kensington Museum in London and in the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington, and there are examples of it also in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and in Milan. He edited a survey, The Art of the Poster, in 1934. He was a Fellow of the British Institute of Industrial Art and a member of the Council for Art and Industry. When the Royal Society of Arts established its high diploma of R.D.I. (Designer for Industry) in 1937 he was ineligible as a foreigner, but was granted honorary status. He was asked to be Honorary Advisor to the Department of Public Information for the United Nations. He was Advisory Council for the Victoria and Albert Museum. His biography appears in the English "Who's Who" and in the American "Who's Who", as well as in the Columbia Encyclopedia.

Kauffer began to lose interest in the New York advertising scene. A friend of his said that he chose to kill himself with drink. He continued to work to the end, almost obsessively. Kauffer died on 22 October 1954.

From the description of Edward McKnight Kauffer collection, 1915-1954. (Smithsonian Institution Libraries). WorldCat record id: 51816031

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Woolf, Virginia, 1882-1941. Letter, 10 August, [193-?] : to Edward McKnight Kauffer. Washington State University, Holland and Terrell Libraries
creatorOf Lewis, Wyndham, 1882-1957. Autograph letters signed : London, to E. McKnight Kauffer, 1919 July 8-1925 Oct. 8 and undated. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Sitwell, Sacheverell, 1897-1988. The parrot's voice snaps out=No good to contradict=What he says he'll say again: Dry facts, like biscuits, = : calligraphed illustration. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Maugham, W. Somerset (William Somerset), 1874-1965. Autograph letter signed : New York, to E. McKnight Kauffer, [1940] Nov. 6. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Hutchinson, Mary, 1889-1977. Mary Hutchinson Papers, 1910-1977. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Eliot, T. S. (Thomas Stearns), 1888-1965. Autograph and typed letters signed (21) and one postcard : London, to E. McKnight Kauffer, 1928-1948 and undated. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Nash, Paul, 1889-1946. Autograph letters signed (4) : Sussex and Dorset, to E. McKnight Kauffer, 1930 Dec. 3-1935 Jan. 24. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Eliot, T. S. (Thomas Stearns), 1888-1965. T.S. Eliot Collection, 1905, 1917-1979. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Records of the Office of War Information. 1926 - 1951. Original Artwork for World War II Posters. 1942 - 1945. Both Answered the Call to Battle (Information on back: paid for not used) [signed by E. McNight Kauffer]
creatorOf Sitwell, Osbert, 1892-1969. Autograph letter signed : Sarasota, Fla., to E. McKnight Kauffer, 1951 Feb. 15. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Strachey, Lytton, 1880-1932. Autograph letter signed : Keswick, to E. McKnight Kauffer, 1921 Aug. 14. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Eliot, Henry Ware, 1879-1947, collector. T. S. Eliot collection, 1881-1994. Houghton Library.
creatorOf Nicolson, Harold George, Sir, 1886-1968. Typed letter signed : London, to E. McKnight Kauffer, 1831 Sept. 1. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Cummings, E. E. (Edward Estlin), 1894-1962. Typewritten letter signed with initials : Silver Lake, N.H. to E. McKnight Kauffer, 1949 July 21. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Huxley, Aldous, 1894-1963. Autograph and typed letters signed (7) : Sanary (Var), etc., to E. McKnight Kauffer, 1931 Aug. 6-1947 Jan. 19. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn E. E. Cummings papers, 1870-1969. Houghton Library.
creatorOf Moore, Marianne, 1887-1972. Autograph post cards signed (4) and an autograph note unsigned : Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts [etc.], to E. McKnight Kauffer, 1949 Aug. 24-1952 Sept. 1 and undated. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Kauffer, E. McKnight (Edward McKnight), 1890-. Edward McKnight Kauffer collection, 1915-1954. Smithsonian Institution. Libraries
referencedIn Clark, Kenneth, 1903-1983. Papers, ca. 1923-1983. The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. Biblioteca Berenson - Villa I Tatti, Biblioteca Berenson - Villa I Tatti
creatorOf Fry, Roger Eliot, 1866-1934. Autograph letters and postcards signed (20) : London, [etc.], to E. McKnight Kauffer, 1917 Sept. 18-1932 Nov. 24. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Kauffer, E. McKnight (Edward McKnight), 1890-1954. Autograph letter signed : London, to Messrs. Duckworth & Co., 1922, Nov 12. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Woolf, Virginia, 1882-1941. Autograph letters signed (2) and typed letter signed : London [etc.], to E. McKnight Kauffer, 1931 Apr. 4-23, and undated. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Fry, Roger Eliot, 1866-1934. Commerce and art typescript notes : [London?], [n.d.]. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Nevinson, Christopher Richard Wynne, 1889-1946. Autograph letter signed : London, to Edward McKnight Kauffer, [n.d.]. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Wescott, Glenway, 1901-1987. Autograph letter signed and typed letter signed : New York and Hampton, N.J., to E. McKnight Kauffer, [no year] May 5 and 1944 Oct. 9. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Grant, Duncan, 1885-1978. Autograph letter signed : Gordon Square [London], to E. McKnight Kauffer, 1926 Jan. 15. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Bennett, Arnold, 1867-1931. Autograph and typed letters signed (20) and one autograph card : London, to E. McKnight Kauffer, 1928 Aug. 15-1930 Dec. 22. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Kauffer, Edward McKnight, 1890- : [miscellaneous ephemeral material]. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas J. Watson Library
referencedIn T. S. Eliot Collection TXRC07-A6., 1905, 1917-1979 Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Fry, Roger Eliot, 1866-1934. Mr. McKnight Kauffer's posters : autograph manuscript : [London], [1925]. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Mary Hutchinson Papers TXRC98-A20., 1910-1977 Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Fry, Roger Eliot, 1866-1934. Autograph manuscript signed : [London?], [n.d.]. Pierpont Morgan Library.
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith American Airlines, inc. corporateBody
associatedWith American Silk Mills. corporateBody
associatedWith Beddington, Jack. person
associatedWith Bennett, Arnold, 1867-1931. person
associatedWith Brighton (Firm) corporateBody
associatedWith British Federation of Master Printers. corporateBody
associatedWith British Institute of Industrial Art. corporateBody
associatedWith British South American Airways. corporateBody
associatedWith Clark, Kenneth, 1903-1983. person
associatedWith Container Corporation of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Cooper-Hewitt Design Archive. corporateBody
associatedWith Cummings, E. E. (Edward Estlin), 1894-1962. person
associatedWith Dorn, Marion, 1896-1964. person
associatedWith Duckworth (Firm), corporateBody
associatedWith Ehrlich, Grace. person
associatedWith Eliot, T. S. (Thomas Stearns), 1888-1965 person
associatedWith Fry, Roger Eliot, 1866-1934. person
associatedWith Grant, Duncan, 1885-1978. person
associatedWith Haworth-Booth, Mark. person
associatedWith Hutchinson, Mary, 1889-1977 person
associatedWith Huxley, Aldous, 1894-1963. person
associatedWith Imperial Airways. corporateBody
associatedWith Lewis, Wyndham, 1882-1957. person
associatedWith London Underground Limited. corporateBody
associatedWith Maugham, W. Somerset (William Somerset), 1874-1965. person
associatedWith Moore, Marianne, 1887-1972. person
associatedWith Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Nash, Paul, 1889-1946. person
associatedWith National Aid Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Nevinson, Christopher Richard Wynne, 1889-1946. person
associatedWith New York (State). Metropolitan Transportation Authority. corporateBody
associatedWith Nicolson, Harold George, Sir, 1886-1968. person
associatedWith Pan American World Airways, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Pick, Frank, 1878-1941. person
associatedWith Ray, Gordon Norton, 1915-1986, person
associatedWith Sitwell, Osbert, 1892-1969. person
associatedWith Sitwell, Sacheverell, 1897-1988. person
associatedWith Strachey, Lytton, 1880-1932. person
associatedWith Symon, D. E. (David E.) person
associatedWith Victoria and Albert Museum. corporateBody
associatedWith Waldman, Bernard. person
associatedWith Wescott, Glenway, 1901-1987. person
associatedWith Woolf, Virginia, 1882-1941. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Great Britain
Subject
Theaters--Stage-setting and scenery--History--20th century--Sources
Illustration of books--20th century--Sources
Graphic arts--History--20th century--Sources
Occupation
Draftsmen (artists)--United States
Draftsmen (artists)--Great Britain
Illustrators--Great Britain
Illustrators--United States
Theater designers--United States
Function

Person

Birth 1890-12-14

Death 1954-10-22

English

Information

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