The Abstracts, part 2

'O Lady be Good' by George and Ira Gershwin. Sheet Music published by Editions Francis Salabert, Paris, 1925. Cover illustrated by Roger de Valerio.
O Lady be Good‘ by George and Ira Gershwin. Sheet Music published by Editions Francis Salabert, Paris, 1925. Cover illustrated by Roger de Valerio.

Roger de Valerio, the king of sheet music illustration, often used abstract forms and patterns. In his cover for Gershwin’s ‘O Lady Be Good‘, de Valerio accentuates the intimacy and tender affection of an enamoured couple in contrast to the fiery and exuberant world around it. Fabien Loris (see The Abstracts, part 1) and Roger de Valerio were inventive and humorous in their figurative drawing. But both had also the resourcefulness to apply geometrical forms, shapes and planes of colour in a refreshing, original style. As in these catchy de Valerio’s designs.

Mountain Greenery: sheet music illustration by Roger de Valerio
Mountain Greenery‘ by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart (Salabert, Paris, 1926). Illustration by Roger de Valerio.
'Do I hear you saying?'. A cover design by Roger de Valerio (1928)
Do I hear you saying?‘ by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, publisher Francis Salabert (Paris, 1928). Cover design: Roger de Valerio.
Illustration by R. de Valerio for sheet music 'Un cœur une Chaumière'.
Un cœur une Chaumière‘ by René Sylviano, Jacques-Charles & Léo Lelièvre (Salabert, Paris, 1929). Illustration R. de Valerio.

Roger de Valerio used colours and patterns very functionally to obtain his primary goal: pull the attention to the music title, and sell it! Here is a vibrant example of how he succeeded for a song from the Zig-Zag revue, played at the Folie Bergères at the time the armistice was signed in November 1918.

Sheet music illustration by R. de Valerio for the revue Tig-zag
Will-o’-the Wisp‘ (Zig-zag revue), by Dave Stamper & Gene Buck. Publications Francis Salabert, Paris, 1915, illustration by R. de Valerio.

Because a publisher like Francis Salabert not only distributed music, but also was involved in financially managing the shows, he was often insistent that the cover showed an image of the vedettes. His favourite illustrator De Valerio knew how to deal with it, and skilfully arranged photographs, combining them with graphics.

Sheet music 'Perdon!' illustrated by Roger de Valerio., 1929.
Perdon!’ by José Sentis, published by Salabert (Paris, 1929), with a photo of femme fatale looking Rosita Barrios (photographer G. Marant), illustrated by Roger de Valerio.
'J'vous ferai voir', illustrated by de Valerio (1925).
J’vous ferai voir‘ by Henri Christiné and Albert Willemetz (from the revue ‘Paris en Fleurs’ with Maurice Chevalier and Yvonne Vallée). Publications Francis Salabert (Paris, 1925), probably illustrated by de Valerio.
'Frescuras'
Frescuras‘ and ‘Amargura‘, two tangos by the Brasilian-French composer José Lucchesi. Publisher: Salabert, Paris, 1929. Photography Sobol. The cover was probably designed by R. de Valerio, and printed in different colours (at the same time, as proven by the consecutive publisher numbers E.A.S. 5573 and 5574).

Some more of de Valerio’s abstract designs? Here they come.

'Le bout du nez', sheet music, designs attributed to R. de Valerio (1922 & 1928)
Le bout du nez‘, by Charles Cuvillier (Salabert, Paris, 1922) and ‘The Blue Room‘ by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart (Salabert, Paris, 1928). Both designs attributed to R. de Valerio.
Abstract sheet music covers illustrated by Roger de Valerio.
Le Charleston Blues‘ by Henderson, De Sylva and Brown. Right: ‘Get a Load of This‘ by Harry Archer & Harlan Thompson. Both published by Salabert (Paris, 1926) and illustrated by de Valerio.
Absteact designs by Roger de Valerio for sheet music (1929)
Left: ‘La Calinda‘ by Herman Hupfeld and Huntley Trevor. Right: ‘Judy‘ by Pierre Norman, Jacques Murray & Marc Hély. Both sheet music published by Salabert in Paris, 1929, and designed by Roger de Valerio (left one unsigned).
Sheet music covers signed R. de Valerio.
Por tu culpa‘ by Manuel Jovès and P. Maroni, published by Salabert (Paris, 1928), most likely illustrated by de Valerio. Right: ‘As it were‘ by Y. P. Mullow (Salabert, Paris, 1929), signed R. de Valerio.

While in the 1920’s Loris and de Valerio were applying abstract art in their music covers to create movement, other artists (especially in Germany) were exploring motion and timing of abstract images, in an effort to equal the expressiveness of musical compositions. One such avant-gardist was Walter Ruttmann, who made his first short film Lichtspiel (Game of Light) in 1921.
The music for string quartet was specially composed by Max Butting for the eleven minutes of film. In the original score Ruttman inserted drawings and other indications on how to precisely synchronise the music to the motion. The lightly-hypnotic effect of the film is remarkable in the finale (starting at 10′). And wake up… when I snap my fingers.

One thought on “The Abstracts, part 2”

  1. Beste Divine en Frank, een massa bladmuziek van mijn favorite Roger de Valerio, een geweldige aanwinst voor mijn galerij !

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