Jean Carlu (1900-1997)

Graphic designer and proponent of modern art in advertising

Updated: November 21, 2012

Jean Carlu working on his contribution to the National and Civilian Defense Exposition, ca. 1941/1942.

Jean Carlu was an renowned, modernist graphic designer who designed advertising posters during the interwar and postwar years. Born in Bonnieres, France, he studied architecture, but found employment primarily in graphic design, working for an advertising agency from 1919 to 1921. He built his professional career in France on Art Deco advertising posters (including an early celebrated advertisement for Glycodont toothpaste in 1918), and in 1937 became chairman of the graphics publicity section of the Paris International Exhibition, an influential institution in the interwar transatlantic design world.

Carlu was sent to America to prepare the French exhibition for the New York World's Fair in 1939 (which attracted a number of European émigrés) and remained in the United States until 1953. He became involved in advertising the war production drive, to which he contributed several prize winning posters. He designed advertising art for several American companies including the Container Corporation of America (for which Herbert Bayer also designed advertisement campaigns) and Pan American Airways. His work was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art among other places. Upon his return to France, he continued work in advertising for clients such as Firestone and Air France.  Between 1945 and 1965 he was president of the Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI). Carlu was a noted proponent of modern art in advertising, and was one of several European immigrants who helped introduce stylistic elements of modernist European poster art to the American advertising world.

Selected Publications

Carlu, Jean. Retrospective Jean Carlu. Paris: Musée de l'Affiche, 1981.

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MLA Style

"Jean Carlu," Transatlantic Perspectives, 2021, Transatlantic Perspectives. 17 Oct 2021 <>

APA Style

"Jean Carlu." (2021) In Transatlantic Perspectives, Retrieved October 17, 2021, from Transatlantic Perspectives: