Presentation details
French Délice

letter painting, lettering and cultural tradition in France

Fritz Grögel

Saturday 15 September | 17:00 – 17:30
Location: Dance Studio Room 225

Presentation | Theme: Cultures | Duration: 30 minutes

French Délice is a diploma thesis on letterforms in public spaces in France. It explores the origin of letterpainting, the history of commercial signs and its specific letterforms. It focuses on the Art of Lettering, a nowadays ­ in Germany and France ­ mostly forgotten branch of the history of letter design. Furthermore, it analyzes the typical letterforms and design principles that make French lettering a distinctive expression of French national culture.

One of the difficult problems is to analyze the specific national form of the written word. It is a fact that the scriptural production of all people that write roman type [Antiqua] occurred in constant exchange. But one can not infer from this that there would not be any national particularities in letterforms. After all, architecture, music and the fine arts also developed conjointly throughout Europe and yet every people embossed its own national expression.” ALBERT KAPR

The starting point of French Délice is the simple yet important statement that the letterforms which are present in french public spaces are not the same as in Germany. Conventional books on the history of typography do not explain this difference as they mostly work as “World Histories of Roman Type” and retrace calligraphic and typographic developments throughout the Western World. They rarely do consider letter making beyond lead-typography and do not retrace the Civilization of the Letter for one isolate country (or, if they do, they depend on the native language of the author).

Yet, the specific letterforms seen in public spaces in different countries all depend on the History of Lettering (engraving, carving, letter painting) rather than the History of Typography. French Délice is exploring this Terra incognita presenting and analyzing a huge amount of original lettering masters held by the Bibliothèque Forney of Paris and exploiting mid and late 19th century photographs of Parisian Streets (Charles Marville, Eugène Atget, Musée Carnavalet, Paris).

Looking on these letter models, one becomes aware of the origins of contemporary french lettering: it is the tradition of epigraphical monumental lettering and 18th century national hands. French Délice follows these tracks up to the second and third decade of 20th century when early advertising artists carried lettering forward into the world of what now is graphic design.

The typo-graphical traditions in France and Germany are not the same ­ neither historically, nor today. Differences in the cultural perception of letterforms and classes persist, despite all unifying tendencies in times of globalization. One could think that the rationalist typographic doctrine of the 1960s would have put an end to these differences, but the works and teachings of the postwar french typographers around influential Maximilien Vox made sure that Frances graphical constitution still represents a way of its own.

Speaker details

Fritz Grögel Freelancer | Germany

Born in 1974 in Wassertrüdingen, Germany. Design Studies from 1998 to 2006 at Fachhochschule Potsdam, Germany, including studies abroad at École supérieure Estienne des Arts et Industries graphiques in Paris, France and at Escola superior de Desenho Industrial (ESDI) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Scholarships granted by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes. Graduation at FH Potsdam passed with distinction in 2006. Lives and works in Berlin as a freelance designer and copywriter.

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