Eduardo Muniz Bachs - Signed Cuban movie poster "La Fidelidad"

Eduardo Muniz Bachs - Signed Cuban movie poster "La Fidelidad"

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This is a lovely original poster, by a very talented artist. This work measures around 26" x 20". Signed in pencil, and dated 1996. The original poster was done in 1993.

 

Eduardo Muñoz Bachs is without doubt the most important, famed, and prolific exponent of what has come to be known as the Cuban School of Film Posters.

His name returns to the headlines today, not due to any anniversary or particular tribute, but because the Cinematheque of Cuba’s Cuban Film Posters Collection has been included in the National Registry of the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture’s (UNESCO) Memory of the World Programme.

The project which started in 1992 not only has the purpose of preserving documentary heritage of international relevance, but also of promoting it, and registrations are proposed by UNESCO National and Regional committees.

Three Cuban archives already feature in the Memory of the World Register: the José Martí Pérez Funds (2005); the original negatives of the ICAIC Latin-American Newsreels (2009); and the Documentary Collection “Life and Works of Ernesto Che Guevara: from the originals manuscripts of his adolescence and youth to the campaign Diary in Bolivia” (2013).

“The Cuban Posters collection is an essential part of ICAIC’s heritage. They are the graphic expression that accompanied Cuban cinematography throughout the history of its development,” read the text explaining the inclusion in the Register presented by Nuria Gregori, president of the Cuban Committee of the UNESCO Program.

 

In the book Ciudadano cartel, by Sara Vega, Alicia García, and Claudio Sotolongo (Icaic Editions, 2011), important figures of world cinema who have referred to Cuban film posters are cited. For example: Italian actor Gian Maria Volonté, stated: “Cuban film posters are unique because they give the cinema its true dimension”; French actress Jeanne Moreau: “Cuban movie poster artists are designers and poets”; and U.S. director Francis Ford Coppola: “I am a passionate admirer and collector of Cuban posters.”

Ever since Muñoz Bachs created his poster for the Cuban film Historias de la Revolución(1960), by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, the Cuban Cinematheque has zealously safeguarded some 3,000 works.

The earliest works include posters by Antonio Fernández Reboiro, Rafael Morante, Julio Eloy, Rostgaard, Héctor Villaverde, Rene Azcuy, and Antonio Pérez (Ñiko), and even noteworthy Cuban and international artists, such as René Portocarrero for the First Week of Polish Cinema in 1961; Raúl Martínez, who restated his preference for Pop Art in the classic poster for Lucía by Humberto Solás in 1968; or Spain’s Antonio Saura, creator of the poster for Memories of Underdevelopment, by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (1968).

 



Of these works of art, now part of world heritage, more than a thousand are signed by Muñoz Bachs.

AN UNMISTAKEABLE SIGNATURE

Eduardo Muñoz Bachs (Valencia, Spain, 1937 - Havana, Cuba, 2001) is a central name in the world of Cuban posters. Film lovers know that it is sometimes the image of a film poster that initially draws audiences to see a movie.

This master of design, in his intense and extensive work was also a draftsman, painter, illustrator, and graphic designer, although his most significant work is that linked to film.

His film posters have a personal mark, which won him numerous awards at major film festivals: Leipzig, Ottawa, Cannes, Paris; from The Hollywood Reporter, and six Coral prizes in different editions of the Havana International Festival of New Latin American Cinema.

Muñoz Bachs’ relationship with Cuban cinema began in 1960, as noted, with nothing less than the poster for the movie Historias de la Revolución.

 

One of his colleagues, designer Héctor Villaverde, speaking at the inauguration of the exhibition Posters by Bachs, held in Veracruz, Mexico, in 2000, noted: “Curiously, in this first poster by Bachs, made at the request of Gutiérrez Alea himself, the designer uses a black-and-white photo of a scene from the film printed in offset, something that he would never repeat in his poster production.”

Muñoz Bachs sought his own signature, and succeeded. The designer explained his method of work in a newspaper interview: “Once I see the film, I seek an idea, I make very small and simple sketches, two inches or so, and when one satisfies me, I directly proceed to creating it. Thus, the design is spontaneous, freer.”

The result is, as Villaverde stated, “a style as far removed from photographic realism as we can imagine, his personal use of color extracts all the possibilities that the technique of screen printing allows.”

The magnificent work of Muñoz Bachs is part of the history of Cuban, Latin American, and world cinema posters, as he created works for Hungarian, Russian, Spanish, English, Italian, Japanese, and Mexican films, capturing the essence of each, but, as was pointed out at the time, made in a “Cuban style,” or rather the “Muñoz Bachs style.”

 

He was a prolific designer, although obviously it is not only the quantity, but the quality of his work, with a perfectly recognizable style, that won him such acclaim. He has rightly been regarded as the most important Cuban poster artist.

Who doesn’t think of Muñóz Bachs on seeing a Cuban poster of Chaplin’s Tramp? Who fails to be moved on seeing the poster for Missing Children, by documentary maker Estela Bravo? Who doesn’t laugh at the poster Por primera vez, the documentary by Octavio Cortázar?

His signature is unmistakable, original, with precise features, direct, extremely elaborate, meticulous and also, of course, filled with grace, humor, and intelligent satire.

Eduardo Muñoz Bachs left behind unforgettable works, besides those already mentioned, including: La fortaleza escondida, 1965; La quimera del oro, 1962; Hamlet, 1964; Desierto rojo, 1966; Gallego, 1988; all in the style that made him a legend of Cuban poster art.

 

THE CUBAN MOVIE POSTER

You have no idea what that is. None. Don’t try and pretend you do because I know you don’t. If you do know what a Cuban movie poster is, then congratulations because you are the first person in my 20+ years as a collector who does.

In all that time, when flaccid cocktail party conversations inevitably turned to the “Do you have any hobbies?” portion, I smiled, knowing what was going to happen. I was about to say, “I collect Cuban movie posters,” which would be met by blank stares from them, followed by a quick explanation by me. At the very least, I knew I was introducing someone to something they had no idea existed.

Which is precisely what I’m about to do to you.

A LABOR OF PASSION AND PATIENCE. 

Cuban movie posters are exactly what you expect them to be, and not. Produced by the post-revolutionary Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC), Cuban movie posters were intended to promote domestic and international films. Ironically, the posters ended up becoming works of art in-and-of themselves, more than once proving more artful than the movies they were meant to advertise. 

What makes Cuban movie posters inarguably unique, however, is who they’re produced by — some of Cuba’s top graphic designers — and how they’re produced — by hand. In fact, every poster is a hand-printed silkscreen. Not the first 50. Or 75. Every single Cuban movie poster ever produced was, and still is, printed by hand. To give you an idea of how many that is, Eduardo Muñoz Bachs, one of Cuba’s most respected and prolific poster designers, is credited with having created thousands of posters.

Beyond being brilliantly designed, the posters transcended what we would consider the norms of cinematic marketing. Every poster had whatever copy the artist wanted and could be as interpretive as he/she desired so long as the regime wasn’t offended. This was only possible because, ironically, the posters didn’t have to “sell” the films they advertised. In Cuba’s limited world of entertainment, all that mattered was that there was simply a film to see. Who directed it or what it was about was, quite often, irrelevant. As such, conveying the general “gist” of the film is all the artist needed to do, and even that was open to often wild, always bold, interpretation.  

A VERY, VERY LIMITED LIFECYCLE.

As all ephemera, Cuban movie posters were intended to be temporary. They were printed in quantities of 50 to 250, posted and, once their need faded, they were taken down. Sometimes they were saved, especially if the movie would be shown again. For the most part, however, tens of thousands of posters were destroyed, either by hand or by the elements — long-term storage wasn’t a consideration. Which is why finding a first-run original of, say, “Moby Dick” designed by Reboiro in 1968 would be a huge coup for any collector. 

CELEBRATING 60 YEARS.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of ICAIC. Founded among the ashes of post-revolutionary realities and maturing in the embargo-driven bureaucracy that followed, you see the work of artists like Bachs, Reboiro, Julio Eloy, Ñiko, René Azcuy and marvel at how, even with countless restrictions, they were still able to create so freely. While influenced by Polish poster art and Russian propaganda, their art remained unknown and uncelebrated for decades. Today, the same Cuban movie posters that were originally designed to inhabit the tiny 20×30 displays in Havana kiosks can be found in much more significant spaces. Whether in the permanent collections of museums around the world or on the auction block at Christie’s, the popularity of Cuban poster art is growing. Pronto.

So, while some people still don’t know what a Cuban movie poster is, you are now among the few who do. You may even become one of the very few who actually owns an original. Be careful, though — they are wonderfully, perfectly, wildly addicting. Consider yourself warned.