Art and drinks have been synonymous for centuries, from William Hogarth to Leonetto Capiello. But how has Art inspired drinkers to buy?
Millie Milliken explores the connections.
As nicknames go, ‘Father of Modern Advertising Posters’ isn’t too shabby. It belongs to Leonetto Capiello, an Italian caricaturist who worked in Paris in the early 1900s, and who was responsible for some of the aperitif category’s most iconic, original adverts. Martini, Cinzano, Contratto, Campari – you name it, he captured it.
Art and drinks have, for centuries, been intertwined with some of the most recognisable being William Hogarth’s 1791 Gin Lane, Henri Privat-Livemont’s 1896 redhead holding a chalice of Absinthe Robette and John Gilroy’s 1930s toucan popping open a bottle of Guinness. Yet Capiello’s depiction of the early 20th century’s tipples act somewhat as a turning point for taking art and turning brands into behemoths.
“Cappiello pushed the envelope of communication when he invented, to all intents and purposes, Campari's first mascot and product endorsement,” says Anita Todesco, the curator of Galleria Campari (the brand’s own gallery in Milan) of Capiello’s most famous Campari artwork Spiritello. She adds “It aided the brand's recognisability, diversifying it with this unique subject and increasing its memorability among the more common advertising representations focusing solely on the bottles.”
But how does Capiello’s clown capture Campari and its signature flavours? “His shapes and colours recall the ‘perfect serving’,” explains Todesco. “The Bitter is evoked by his red suit, while the soda is represented by the white dots that stud the clown's suit and recall, together with the composition's vertical thrust, the inimitable effervescence of the cocktail.”
The brand’s association with the art world began with Davide Campari in 1885, one of its founder Gaspare’s sons, who took over the business (which began in 1860) and worked with several artists to bring the brand alive. Since then, its been associated with creatives such as the futurist painter Fortunato Depero, screenwriters and directors Federico Fellini and Paolo Sorrentino. Fast forward to 2021, and Campari has joined forces with the Affordable Art Fair, to launch Art Without Walls, the UK’s largest outdoor gallery for two weeks in June.
And it isn’t just Capiello who has inspired drinks brands, drinks makers and drinkers. Remy Savage and Paul Lougart’s recently opened bar in Dalston has been inspired by the Bauhaus art movement – so much so, it doesn’t have a name but a blue circle, red square and yellow triangle above the door, in homage to the work of Kandinksy and his famous course ‘colours’. With only 20 bottles behind the bar, and nine cocktails on the menu (as well as an onsite lab) it’s a masterclass in functionality and form.
Other brands are synonymous with artists too. Perhaps the best known is spiced rum brand, Sailor Jerry, named after tattoo artist and pioneer, Norman Collins. He may have died from a heart attack on a motorbike, but his signature nautical, pin up and Hawaii-themed have inspired tattoo artists for decades since.
To mark the 48th anniversary of Collins’ death, the brand has commissioned five traditional tattoo artists around the world – Henning Jorgensen (Royal Tattoo, Denmark), Andrea Giulimondi (Riverside Tattoo, UK), Rosie Evans (Five Points, NYC & Marlett Tattoo, LA), Phil De Angulo (Memorial Brooklyn Tattoo, USA) and Marcus Yuen (59 Tattoo, Hong Kong) – to paint their own versions of their favourite Sailor Jerry flash.
Another art medium that lends itself well to the drinks world is photography. When No. 3 Gin launched its Art of Perfection campaign back in 2019, it worked with micro-photographer Justin Zoll to capture its liquid on a microscopic scale – x40 magnification, to be precise.
For Lucinda Hodge, international brand manager at Berry Bros. & Rudd, the project allowed the team to “hero our gin from a completely different perspective by going beyond what the eye can see and transforming the crystal-clear liquid into a dramatic landscape of colour.”
Elsewhere, Jose Cuervo has worked with Mexican artists to design each release of its Tequila Familia Reserva wooden boxes; Hine Cognac is working on an upcoming project with the Royal Academy of Art; and Audemus Spirits has worked with artist Edd Bagenal to create nostalgic characters for its postcards, tin signs and even an animation to tell its brand story.
It looks like the relationship between drinks and art will, thankfully, be continuing for decades – if not centuries – to come.