With its sinuous curving line, asymmetrical composition, and integration of colors, forms, and lettering, this poster by the Belgian industrial designer, Hendrikus Van de Velde, ranks among the icons of the Art Nouveau movement. In 1898, the General Manager of the Tropon firm, manufacturers of a health supplement developed from egg whites, commissioned Van de Velde to design posters, packaging and other graphic design pieces for the company. Rather than illustrate people consuming the food additive, Van de Velde enticed viewers’ attention by showing egg whites separating from the yokes and pouring down around the words “est L’Aliment le plus Concentré [Tropon is the most powerful food supplement], in a highly original abstract composition. Van de Velde, influenced by the recently published Paleolithic cave paintings at Altimira in the second decade of the twentieth century, wrote a manuscript on aesthetic theory. He argued that line rather than geometry was the basic component of all art because it was the instinctive way humans made images. The Tropon poster illustrates the designer’s belief in line as the creative force and the carrier of human energy. The swirling line that flows down and then upward, embracing all of the forms, lettering, and ornament, creates a striking and harmonious work of design.
Poster: Tropon est L'Aliment le Plus Concentré (Tropon, the Most Concentrated Food Supplement), 1898. Designed by Henry Van de Velde. Museum purchase through gift of Mr. and Mrs. Lee S. Ainslie III, Marilyn Friedman, and Nancy Marks; General Acquisitions Endowment; Drawings & Prints Council Fund. 2007-2-1.