Max Burchartz, Tanzfestspiele zum 2. Deutschen Tänzerkongress Essen 1928 (Dance Festival at the Second German Dance Congress …) poster, 1928. Printed by F. W. Rohden, Essen, Germany. Photolithograph. 35 1/2 x 33 1/4 in. (90.2 x 84.5 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Jan Tschichold Collection, © 2018 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

From the Exhibition:
Jan Tschichold and the New Typography: Graphic Design Between the World Wars

The term “typophoto,” meaning the integration of text and photography, was coined by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy in his 1925 Bauhaus book Painting, Photography, Film. By that time, however, several artist-designers in Germany were already exploring the potential of typography and photographic imagery. In his graphic designs, Max Burchartz aimed for optical efficiency, which he felt embodied the essence of contemporary advertising. Concerned with the order in which information was interpreted, Burchartz believed that images were the first form of visual content that a viewer would recognize and process when looking at a design.1 This understanding helps explain Burchartz’s frequent use of photomontage—the selection, editing, and piecing together of photographic images to create a seamless unified design. Employing photography, san serif letterforms, and bold color, Burchartz took to arranging his compositions in isolated informational groups, for he believed that three groups constituted the maximum amount of information that could be layered on a page.2 This typographic ordering technique can be seen in variety of his advertisements for cultural event campaigns of the period, including his poster, pictured here, for the 1928 Tanzfestspiele, or dance festival, in Essen.

The biennial Tanzfestspiele promoted the “new German dance,” an expressive dance style that gained popularity during the interwar period.3 No longer bound to the stylistic conventions of ballet, the new German dance promoted a healthy body culture centered on concepts of free movement and abstraction, which appealed directly to a distinct cultural shift surrounding physical fitness in Germany between the wars.4 Given the close relationship between the body and modernist culture, it is only fitting that new forms of dance movement were frequently taken up by many of the avant-garde groups during the 1920s and 30s, including the Dadaists, Futurists, and Surrealists.

Regarded as something of an authority on graphic advertising in the Weimar period, Burchartz applied many of the principles he had learned from Constructivist artists to his commercial work, strongly favoring the use of geometric shapes, primary colors, and asymmetrical layout. For Burchartz, successful advertising could be broken down into five key principles. A good advertisement:

  1. is factual
  2. is clear and concise
  3. makes use of modern methods
  4. packs a formal punch
  5. is cheap

These principles originally appeared in the pamphlet “Werbe-beratung” (advertising information sheet), which Burchartz self-published in June 1924 to promote his business.5 In his poster for the Tanzfestspiele, we can see some of these principles in action. Burchartz employs a yellow circle as the dominant compositional device within which the text and imagery are organized in discrete groupings. The sections that divide the yellow color field, in combination with the insertion of black-and-white photography, creates a sense of rhythmic dynamism, which is simultaneously reflected in the movement of the dancing women in his poster. Although the poster is viewed nowadays as a singular work, there were supplementary designs associated with the Tanzfestspiele. Tickets, programs, and other printed ephemera employed the same yellow and blue color scheme and repeated the cut-out image of the dancer at the extreme left to give the event a unified identity.

Danielle Weindling participated in Associate Professor Paul Stirton’s Fall 2018 seminar, In Focus II: Jan Tschichold and Graphic Design in the 1920s. She is an MA student at Bard Graduate Center.

1.Jeremy Aynsley, Graphic Design In Germany: 1890–1945 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 173.


3.David J. Buch and Hana Worthen. “Ideology in Movement and a Movement in Ideology: The Deutsche Tanzfestspiele 1934 (9–16 December, Berlin),” Theatre Journal 59, no. 2 (2007), 215–39.

4.Christopher Wilk, Modernism: Designing a New World, 1914–1939 (London: V&A Publications, 2006), 259.

5.Paul Stirton, Jan Tschichold and the New Typography: Graphic Design Between the World Wars (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019), 123–25.