Batiste Madalena

We are pleased to bring you our reference series on information about 19th & 20th Century Illustrators.  This is provided to better help you know and learn about the artist and how one stroke of the artist brush can change the world.

Captain Blood. (Detail) 1923 by Batiste Madalena
Captain Blood. (Detail) 1923 by Batiste Madalena

Batiste Madalena [b. Italy, 1902 – d. 1988] American. Painter

“Madalena was hired by Eastman Theater, Rochester, New York during the late period of silent cinema to design and hand painted film posters for his theater in Rochester, NY—at the time the third-largest cinema in the U.S.

Working alone over a 4 year period producing as many as 8 new posters a week, Madalena created over 1,400 unique works before the end of his tenure, when the theater changed management. He hand painted the images using gouache, tempera and conte crayon on poster board.

Batiste Madalena to create posters for display in its windows, he was given one simple instruction: His designs had to be visually arresting enough to catch the attention of the occupants of the passing trolley cars.

Then in 1928, the story goes, Madalenae happened by the theater one rainy night–and saw his posters crumpled up in the trash behind the theater and rescued them. Approximately 250 of these posters survived today.

Eastman had sold his Theatre to the Paramount-Publix chain and the original advertisement scheme was abandoned. That same year Mr. Madalena opened his own commercial art studio where he worked until his retirement in the late 1960s.

Madalena’s rediscovery in the 1980s brought his brilliantly colored, singular designs, done in tempera paint on illustration board, to the attention of critics and collectors, and soon made him one of the most celebrated advertising artists for moving pictures”. – M[ed]

Laugh Clown Laugh by Batiste Madalena
Laugh Clown Laugh by Batiste Madalena

Style — “Madalena was able to capture the essence of a movie with a minimum of clutter. Using tempera paint on poster board he created a mood that demanded your attention. The labels and captions on the posters were also well done and did not interfere with the illustration. Influences: C. Coles Phillips

As with most gifted artists he exerted great control over the medium with which he worked. And, although he produced a variety of styles, his work was so distinctive that you could always identify it as a Madalena.”

“Perhaps best of all Batiste Madalena’s posters capture the glamour of an era of film history which is past and which no written word can adequately recapture.” — Anthony Slide, former resident historian for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences [1981]

Here is a selection of the Batiste Madalena’s wonderful vintage movie poster prints in our seaside collectibles shop on etsy. Thank you.  

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