One of the most important Modernist German graphic artists, Hans Hillmann designed 130 film posters between 1953 and 1974, including designs for landmark films such as Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai and Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket. Hillmann had as much of a signature as the auteurs whose films he interpreted, revered directors such as Jean- Luc Godard, Ingmar Bergman, Jean Cocteau, Michelangelo Antonioni, Federico Fellini and Luis Buñuel.
As a tribute to the designer and illustrator who died in May this year, Kemistry Gallery will hold an exhibition of Hillmann’s film posters from 21 August – 27 September. This will be the first presentation of his work in the UK and will give a full overview of the evolution of his style.
With his bold, daring creations, Hillmann transformed the art of film advertisement, but Germany’s equivalent of Saul Bass is not well-known in the UK. In the 1950s he used a painterly form of illustration, while throughout the 60s his designs increasingly included photography. Experimental motifs that often appear in his work include ripped paper and the use of multiple images, so the poster resembles a film strip. Meanwhile the designs he created in the late 1960s and 70s, show the influence that Minimalism had on him.
French director Alain Resnais and German filmmaker Edgar Reitz both personally commissioned posters for their films from Hillmann and he had a long partnership with Jean-Luc Godard, designing posters for the German releases of eight of Godard’s films. That Godard was a fan of Hillmann’s is without doubt: many of Hillmann’s designs can be seen in the background of his 1967 film 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her.
To accompany the exhibition the Goethe-Institut and the Institut Français in London will show a selection of films that Hans Hillman designed posters for, showing that fifty years on, Hillmann’s posters are still bringing new audiences to exciting and brave cinema. The films will include masterpieces such as 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her and Pickpocket as well as little-seen classics like Glauber Rocha’s Antonio das Mortes and Nicole Vedres’ Life Begins Tomorrow.
The exhibition is curated by film critic and curator Isabel Stevens and is organised with the help of the Museum Folkwang/German Poster Museum in Essen.