Roger Broders’ first posters do not reflect the exceptional talent that could set him apart from his colleagues. The posters of Avignon (1922) or Salins-les-Bains (1923) are quite run of the mill and could well be attributed to Alo or Constant-Duval contemporary artists specializing in travel posters. La Chaine du Mont Blanc et I’Aiguille du Dru (1924) is very similar, as far as colors go, to the poster designed at the same time by Roger Soubie for the Chemin de Fer de Chamonix au Montenvers.
At this time a group of poster good landscape artists, including Geo Dorival, Julien Lacaze, Pierre Commarmond and Paul Edouard Champseix, are all working for Lucien Serre, an outstanding printer. His printing house publishes posters in a wealth of colors under the care of a master printer. At the beginning of the 1980’s, when the magazine “La Vie du Rail” asked the Bedos printing shop to issue a reproduction of a poster by Champseix of the viaduc de Garabit, the head lithographer an old hand at printing, was able to identify a total of no less than eighteen color-runs on the original! This multitude of color-runs allows the entire spectrum of hues to be displayed and Broders will put this to good use.. Very rapidly he develops a system a sort of tool box which he uses at will, according to the task at hand. When dealing with a single landscape especially a mountain scene he constructs his picture in three grounds: The foreground, his view point, propped on the text, practically always appearing at the bottom of the poster rises above the middle distance, thus allowing for a depth of field. Trees are added to increase these effects of perspective a technique he uses in a masterly fashion. The foreground is almost always done in dark hues, which serve to enhance and drawthe attention of the viewer to the center, a valley, whereaccording to the criteria of his commission, he will draw a town or a village, in a lighter shade. Finally the background, where the deciphering of the picture ends, represents the mountains, which draws upwards the gaze of the viewer. This system works perfectly and can be adapted to any setting. Consequently, when dealing with the French Riviera, Broders keeps on using these three perspectives and depending on the chosen view point, trees or cactus appear in the foreground, followed by a village, then the sea, or vice-versa. The interpretation of the picture, however always remains identical. Only very few posters do not follow these rules. Only when the subject dictates otherwise, does Broders use a different technique. Le funiculaire Chamonix-Planpraz (1928) plays upon the diagonals to magnify the incline and the difference in heights.
His most recognized creations stage elegant couples dressed in the latest fashion, drawn in a style that could have led him to produce fashion art for magazines, such as “Vogue” or “La Gazette du Bon Ton” Always situated in the foreground, either to the left or the right, the golfers at St. Honore les Bains, the spectators in evening dress at a night show in Vichy or the tennis players in Monte Carlo, only slightly stylized, promote the concept of the luxury in fashion at each of these resorts. The bathing ladies of Antibes, Calvi or Cote d’Azur, similarly positioned, endorse as effectively the pleasure of basking in the sun or lying on the beach. If Broders’ compositions do vary, in such a rationally constructed system, the subjects change and evolve with time. Even taking into consideration his short period of production the styles may easily overlap or be juxtaposed on the same poster, in accordance with the theme requested. One may think, for example, of Dunkerque (1929) where the stylized characters are represented in flat tints, whereas the more one moves into the picture, the more realism developed through dabs of color takes over Nonetheless Broders’ approach from the start remains descriptive. He strongly uses colors side-by-side to convey the general atmosphere, the light at the time of the day or of the season he has chosen to evoke. The hatching used to represent the forests of fir trees or the reflections of light on the lakes put him on a footing identical with two undisputed masters of the Swiss poster Baunberger and Cardinaux. At any rate Broders masterly deals with light and shadows. Very rapidly circa 1928 his designs evolve into geometrical, stylized patterns. The modele gradually disappears to give way to flats of solid colors. This is Broders’s best period and he produces pure masterpieces which appear at the Pantheon of travel
posters. He is able to simplify, to stylize the subject without letting it lose its charm or warmth a feat which Casandre a master in this field was never able to achieve.
A first attempt, unparalleled in his works, proves that the artist, in spite of his logical mind, was able to surprise (even startle himself?) with an unheard of boldness in composition. Le Tour du Mont Blanc (1927) with its extravagant spiral and its almost naive drawing remains an outsider. Marseille, Porte de I’Afrique du Nord, is a composition where air shafts, funnels and steamer hulls fill the picture. Nonetheless Broders is able to give life to the composition by adding warm hues and a few dabs of color which impact on the waters of a harbor warmed up by the ochres and the sands of the city in the background. Marseille, point de depart de la Cote d’Azur, an even more radical poster thanks to t s modernist c composition, vibrates thanks to details such as the yellow rings of the subject basking in the sun (an often used process) and the sumptuous flats of colors of the sea, the coast or the sun. Like Tom Purvis, his British alter ego, Broders goes as far as using a process close to the technique of paper cutouts.
Sainte Maxime remains his masterpiece in this category. The palm leaves, the sea, the beach, the sails, are nothing but non-underlined flats. Here again Broders is able to express, as by magic, the light of the Mediterranean light always light. Broders is able to express the cold purity of a mountain landscape, as well as the ever-present brightness of the Riviera, of Rome, drowning in the sun, and even more so with the skies of Baghdad and of the saturation of color which blurs the monuments. In an altogether different area, Broders stands as one of the artists who succeeded in conveying the pleasure of Winter sports. It is another facet of his talent as a publicist, where, this time he gives precedence to action vs. contemplation Whether it be skiing, hockey or bob-sleigh, each time Broders is able to skillfully evoke and display movement.
A rare occurrence in this field, he gives preference to group scenes, thus creating happy and animated posters. Witness the gymnastics of children a Villard de Lans, the trek in a group towards the Teleski pour le Col de la Voza, followed by the descent in Saint descent in Saint Gervais. In the Saint Pierre de Chartreuse poster, the spectators do a lot towards creating is a real master of the travel poster who has always known how to represent a place and capture the quintessence of what the public sought. He is an artist, who by using sound construction principles, a remarkable an ambiance. In the true meaning of the word, Broders typographical know-how and a rich painter’s palette, has succeeded, either through color or his angle of vision, in creating landscapes, which although often similar, are never monotonous. If often in the mainstream, he is unequalled, when in a state of grace. Within a ten-year period he was able to create a major work, and given his specialization produce a considerable number of posters. Finally, and to conclude, a mystery remains:
Why did he suddenly stop creating, never going back to poster art? A question which will certainly always remain unanswered.
Alain Weill, Paris 2002