Poster for “Dorian Gray”, directed by Massimo Dallamano (1970); Poster art by Arnaldo Putzu.

In my studio I have a mug with a slightly shop-worn print of the artwork for “Carry On Girls” on it. The painted illustration – a caricature of all the main actors in the film – is the work of Italian artist and illustrator Arnaldo Putzu, who died earlier this month.

Putzu’s work came to encapsulate the look of popular illustration in the 1960s and 1970s – you will have seen dozens of his paintings on movie posters, magazine and book covers without even realising it. From Dracula to Get Carter, from Carry On to On the Buses, from The Sea Wolves to Creatures the World Forgot, Putzu created a definitive visual language for film and television in those two decades – and helped to develop a style of illustration that continues to shape contemporary practice.

Putzu’s great talent was for blending photorealistic portraiture with impressionistic colours and expressive, abstract composition. His blending of elements within a movie poster, his use of bright, meta-realist palettes, and his spot-on portraits of actors is exemplified in works such as this poster here, for the 1970s adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s story The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Despite their shlock subject matter and ephemeral nature, Putzu’s posters and magazine covers played a huge role in shaping social attitudes towards both television and film in the 1960s and ’70s, and continue to influence contemporary designers, artists and illustrators today.

 

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