Monday, August 23, 2010

The girl in the yellow dress.

I’ve always loved this poster and have a framed copy hanging up above my desk. Maybe it's because there's something so optimistic about the girl in the yellow dress; the promise of youth, possibilities and endless horizons. Posters such as this were created by the Australian National Travel Association – an organisation established in 1929 with the sole purpose 'to place Australia on the world's travel map and keep it there'.

This one was published by the Western Australian Tourist Bureau in 1936 and is the work of Australian artist Percy Trompf (1902-1964). His bright, cheerful artwork was extremely popular, especially during the hardships of the Depression era.

But who is the girl in the yellow dress and why would she have appealed to potential tourists? Human figures were often used in Australian travel advertising to provide some scale for the vast landscapes. They also made the wide open spaces of the outback seem far less frightening and empty.

It’s likely we’ll never know if Trompf modelled the girl on anyone he knew however the fact that she reflects a European ideal with blonde hair and ruddy complexion is no accident. In fact, if it wasn't for the distinctive Australian wildflowers (including 'Kangaroo Paw' - the floral emblem of Western Australia) the poster could be a scene from continental Europe! A fantasy girl in a fantasy land, she perhaps reveals more about wishful-thinking than reality.

Despite this, the American-style image of a smiling, beckoning girl was so successful that is still used in travel advertising today – albeit it’s her older sister this time.

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