One of France’s best-loved illustrators, Jean-Michel Folon (1934-2005) was a prodigious creator. The Folon Foundation in Belgium (his country of birth) lists among its collection “39 watercolours, 3 ink paintings in coloured and Indian ink, 5 oils on wood and collage, 1 oil on canvas and collage, 100 engravings, 50 colour tests, 20 line drawings, 50 original engraved copperplates, 11 screen prints, 15 original objects, 12 sculptures in wood, 25 sculptures in plaster, 2 sculptures in polystyrene, 70 sculptures in patinated bronze, 154 original posters, 18 reproductions of illustrated envelopes, 18 sheets of stamps, 8 Aubusson tapestries, 2 coloured stained-glass windows, 1 automaton in painted resin, 1 mosaic, 1 fountain in pink marble, 4 photos and 8 sundry objects.”
Folon is well known in the US for his political posters (for Greenpeace and Amnesty International), his book illustrations (Kafka, Ray Bradbury), magazine covers (many for the New Yorker) and his collaboration with Milton Glaser. His style was disarmingly simple and instantly recognizable (and occasionally plagiarized): dreamily surreal watercolor deserts and cityscapes peopled with strange creatures and solitary figures in long coats.
He made only a handful of film posters over his lifetime, even though posters were one of his specialties and he had even acted in a couple of films (you see his name in the actor credits of a couple of the posters below). His best known—and probably his best—poster is his design for the French release of Stalker, not a film you would immediately associate with Folon’s lovely dark whimsy, but he captures the inscrutable mystery of Tarkovsky’s masterpiece beautifully. After all, what is Stalker about if not figures in landscape.
Folon’s style was so ineffable that it could be applied to any number of disparate scenarios which is why he was perfectly at ease illustrating not only films by Tarkovsky and Polanski but also Woody Allen.
His posters are presented in chronological order.
Above: Somewhere, Someone (Yannick Bellon, France, 1972).
Above: What? (Roman Polanski, Italy/France/West Germany, 1972).
Above: Lily, aime-moi (Maurice Dugowson, France, 1975).
Above: F for Fairbanks (Maurice Dugowson, France, 1975).
Above: Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, USSR, 1979).
Above: The Purple Rose of Cairo (Woody Allen, USA, 1985).
Above: September (Woody Allen, USA, 1987).
Above: Between Heaven and Earth (Marion Hansel, Belgium, 1992).
Posters courtesy of Heritage Auctions, Posteritati and KinoArt.net.