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Stratford Festival Posters (1956-58) E-mail
Written by Michael LeBlanc   
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The Stratford Shakespearean Festival was established in 1953 to help bring vitality back to the small southern Ontario city: once the site of an important rail junction, the city experienced a decline after the rail yards were moved. Since its inception, the annual Festival has attracted world-renowned theatrical names: Tyrone Guthrie was its first Artistic Director, and Alec Guinness spoke the first lines of the first play at the festival. In early 1953, in anticipation of its first season, Eric was invited to Stratford and appointed Promotional Art Director for the Festival Foundation. Eric was responsible for all programs, posters, banners and assorted printed matter in the first six years of the Festival.

After the first season, souvenir programs became an important vehicle for the Festival Foundation in its relationships with corporate sponsors. In 1955, Eric did the cover, map (of Stratford) and design, with typography by Cooper & Beatty. The following year, Eric did the cover but the design was uncredited. By 1958, although keeping the cover design for himself, Eric had enlisted the help of other artists and designers. Various corporations commissioned the artists to do full-page artwork: Theo Dimson for Imperial Oil, Louis de Niverville for Imperial Tobacco, James Hill for Canada Life, Harold Town for National Trust, and Graham Coughtry for Bank of Montreal.

It was Eric, who in 1955 devised the original logo of the festival: the “S-Swan on the F-Waves,” a reference to the graceful swans that lived along Startford’s Avon River.Although it took at least a year for the S-Swan to make her appearance, the idea may have been in Eric’s mind from the beginning, because a small pen and ink decoration in the program of the first performance depicts a swan imposed on the façade of a theatrical tent. The Festival logo has been changed since then, but the theme has since been adopted by the city, and is now a signature mark that can be spotted on signage and architecture around town.


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It had been an interesting and strange new artistic problem, painting over the North Atlantic, memorising visions from the co-pilot’s seat at night, working inside hangars to the roar of engines, painting in huts, painting in tents, drawing aircraft sketching incidents and personalities, yet I had a feeling I had not begun to fulfill my purpose; I had not truly expressed myself.

-Eric Aldwinckle, 1944