Edward McKnight Kauffer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Edward McKnight Kauffer
Raymond McIntyre - Edward McKnight Kauffer - Google Art Project.jpg
Portrait of Edward McKnight Kauffer by Raymond McIntyre, circa 1915
Edward Leland Kauffer

(1890-12-14)14 December 1890
Died22 October 1954(1954-10-22) (aged 63)
New York City, US
Known for
Spouse(s)Marion Dorn

Edward McKnight Kauffer (14 December 1890 – 22 October 1954)[1] was an American artist and graphic designer who lived for much of his life in the United Kingdom. He worked mainly in poster art, but was also active as a painter, book illustrator and theatre designer.[1][2]


Edward McKnight Kauffer (1937) Photo Carl Van Vechten

Edward Leland Kauffer was born on 14 December 1890, in Great Falls, Montana.[3] By 1910 he had moved to San Francisco working as a bookseller and studying art at the California School of Design from 1910 to 1912.[4] At around this time Professor Joseph McKnight of the University of Utah became aware of Kauffer's work, sponsored him and paid to send him to Paris for further study. In gratitude Kauffer took his sponsor's name as a middle name.

Kauffer stopped in Chicago for six months in 1912/1913 and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. While there he witnessed the Armory Show, one of the first major exhibitions to introduce the styles of modernism to American viewers. This likely had a major impact on Kauffer, who would work in many of the same styles throughout his career. He arrived in Paris in 1913 and studied at the Académie Moderne until 1914.

In Paris in 1923 he met the textile designer Marion Dorn (1896–1964), and subsequently lived with her in London, from late 1923 to July 1940. They married in 1950 and moved to New York until his death in 1954.[5]

Blue plaque erected in 2015 by English Heritage at Swan Court, Chelsea Manor Street, Chelsea, London SW3 5RY, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Kauffer moved to London upon the start of the First World War, and remained there for most of his career. He was briefly associated with Robert Bevan's Cumberland Market Group and had a one-man show at the Omega Workshops.[6] In Brighton on the south coast, he designed a "novel" mural for the lobby of Embassy Court, a Modernist block of flats designed by Wells Coates in 1935. The mural consisted of "monochrome photographs ... printed directly on to a light-sensitive cellulose coating".[7]

Kauffer may be best known for the 140 posters that he produced for London Underground, and later London Transport. The posters span many styles: many show abstract influences, including futurism, cubism, and vorticism; others evoke impressionist influences such as Japanese woodcuts.[8][9]

He created posters for Shell Oil, the Great Western Railway and other commercial clients, and also illustrated books and book covers. Later he also became interested in textiles,[10] interior design and theatrical design.[11]

He returned to New York City in 1940 at the beginning of the Second World War, and tried to find work in advertising. He struggled in the more competitive atmosphere until he was approached to do a series of posters for American Airlines in 1947. American Airlines remained his primary client until his death in 1954.[12]


  1. ^ a b Mark Haworth-Booth ([n.d.]). Kauffer, E. McKnight. Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Accessed May 2017. (subscription required).
  2. ^ Hugh Brigstocke (editor) ([n.d.]). Kauffer, E. McKnight. The Oxford Companion to Western Art. Oxford Art Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Accessed May 2017. (subscription required).
  3. ^ "Edward McKnight Kauffer". Collection. Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
  4. ^ Edward Mcknight Kauffer: Poster Artist and Graphic Designer (1890 – 1954). London: Design Museum. Archived 5 July 2014.
  5. ^ Schoeser, Mary (October 2008). "Dorn, Marion V." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  6. ^ Shone, Richard. (1999) The Art of Bloomsbury: Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 137-138. ISBN 0691049939
  7. ^ Antram, Nicholas; Morrice, Richard (2008). Brighton and Hove. Pevsner Architectural Guides. London: Yale University Press. p. 110. ISBN 978-0-300-12661-7.
  8. ^ Edward Leland McKnight Kauffer A Dictionary of Modern Design. Oxford University Press, 2004, 2005. 6 August 2008.
  9. ^ Artist: Edward McKnight Kauffer - Poster and poster artwork collection, London Transport Museum
  10. ^ Day, Susan (2002). Art deco and modernist carpets. London: Thames & Hudson. pp. 157, 159, 161. ISBN 0500510814.
  11. ^ "'Royal Windsor', GWR poster, 1935., Kauffer, E. McKnight (Edward McKnight)". SSPL Prints. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  12. ^ Steven Heller (1992). E. McKnight Kauffer. American Institute of Graphic Arts. Accessed May 2017.

Further reading[edit]

  • Graham Twemlow, 'E McKnight Kauffer - The stencilled book illustrations', in Parenthesis; 16 (2009 February), p. 32-34
  • Desmond Flower, 'The Book Illustrations of E. McKnight Kauffer', in Penrose Annual; 50 (1956), p. 35-40
  • Knighton, Mary A. “Strange Fruit and Patriotic Flowers: E. McKnight Kauffer’s Illustrated South.” Southern Cultures Vol. 25, No. 4 (Here/Away Special Issue): 54–81.
  • Knighton, Mary A. “Racial Debts, Individual Slights, and Sleights of Hand in Faulkner’s Intruder in the Dust.” Faulkner and Money: Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha, 2017, ed. Jay Watson and James G. Thomas, Jr. (Jackson: UP of Mississippi, July 2019). 186–207.
  • Knighton, Mary A. “Lines of Correspondence: E. McKnight Kauffer’s Original Dust Jacket Art for William Faulkner’s Requiem for a Nun.” Notes and Queries Vol. 64, No. 4 (November 2017): 665–668.
  • Haworth-Booth, Mark (2005). E. McKnight Kauffer : a designer and his public (Fully rev. & updated. ed.). London: V & A. ISBN 1851774661.

External links[edit]