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Piet Zwart – A choice from his personal archive (6)

Lot 590 in the present sale, one of the items from the last of our Piet Zwart Personal Archive series (lot 543-592), shows a typographical design which is practically non-existant, but nevertheless can be found reproduced in any major publication on Zwart. This masterful composition which is titled "een greep uit onze lettercollectie" – 'a choice from our typeface collection' – forms part of the legendary Trio reclameboek –  'Trio advertisingbook' –  which was never published. Only three different copies exist. It is present in two Dutch museum collections: The Municipal Museum, The Hague, holds one archival proofcopy from the property of Piet Zwart himself; the Museum Meermanno-Westreenianum holds two copies stemming from the archives of  the printer Trio after its dissolvement in 1990. The seven loose leaves of the Trio reclamebook included in this auction are the extreme scarce archival proofs of a wonderful printer's excursion in 1930: these specific leaves are very rarely seen and, as stated, never have been made available to the general public in whatever condition.

The history of this Trio advertising goodwill publication is simple, but intriguing. Around 1930 Piet Zwart was asked by the board of Trio Printers to compile a promotional book to explicitely show off the capabilities of the printing office. The major innovative NKF publications had been printed at Trio and triggered the invitation to Zwart to design a work in the same vein with daring demonstrations of modern typography and representations of photo-typography in its most cristalized form.

Piet Zwart was also invited to write the text for the book, which he turned into a manifesto of some length titled "van oude tot nieuwe typografie" - 'from old to new typography', and which incorporates a short history of typography. In it he ultimately defines the fresh characteristics and premises of the New Typography as an approach to graphic design and style.

The management of the Trio printing office considered Zwart's radical approach a bridge too far. Trio had initially stated that they did not want to promote and/or make propaganda for a specific typographical concept. As a result of Trio's dismay, they abandoned the whole promotional project and the book was only published in three copies, each with a different content. These specimens have never been auctioned or offered for sale and are now safely secured in the earlier mentioned museum-collections. As always, Piet Zwart retained several loose pages for his own inspiration and artistic reference. These leaves are now put up for auction in our present catalogue under lot numbers 585 to 591.

Piet Zwarts original manifesto for the Trio advertisingbook was published in a facsimile-edition as a separate annex to Kees Broos' book mondriaan, de stijl en de nieuwe typografie, Amsterdam/ The Hague 1994. Unfortunately, this text of six pages is only available in Dutch and was never published in translation in its entirety.

Kees Broos, art-historian par excellence, who passed away on September 5th, 2015, published this hard to come by text anew with a keen eye for its art-historical importance and intrinsic textual quality. We would like to dedicate this last Piet Zwart catalogue of the series to the explicit memory of Kees Broos (1940-2015), Piet Zwart researcher of the very first hour and curator of great merit and substance.

We would also like to thank John van der Ree for his scholarly attention and contributions to our series of Piet Zwart Personal Archive catalogues.

Nearly every item of this collection is stamped with Piet Zwart’s well-known green ink rubber name and address stamp in lower case. Piet Zwart sometimes refrained from stamping an individual item for purely aesthetic reasons or because of interference with the intrinsic typographical design on recto or verso side of the item. As a bonus, some items have Piet Zwart’s signature on the item itself and/ or on the mount, sometimes even accompanied by dates and/ or annotations in his own hand or that of his late wife, mrs. Nel Zwart-Cleyndert.

For every scholar and researcher in this field, the collection of the Gemeentemuseum (Municipal Museum), The Hague, Holland stands out and functions as the final and ultimate place of reference concerning Piet Zwart. Nearly all the designs which are presented in our series of six special auction-catalogues, are also kept in the Municipal Museum, The Hague collection. These items were acquired by the museum in the 1970s (curator Kees Broos) and 1990s (curator John van der Ree), directly from the artist himself and later from the Piet Zwart family-estate. The Gemeentemuseum, The Hague presented the last full retrospective exhibition of the oeuvre of the artist in 2008.