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Federico García Lorca. 3 Tragedies. New Directions, 1948

(Modern Reader Series)

“Lustig also experimented with the integration of photographs into the design of his covers, creating the challenge of reconciling the transcriptive, literal visual information of the photograph with the goals of the design as a whole. His 1947 cover for Federico García Lorca’s Three Tragedies creates a formal interplay of lights and darks, sharp angles and delicately curved shapes. The textures in the photographs  play off one another, and the text written in the sand becomes a seamless marriage of type and photographic image. The juxtaposed photographs suggest themes that connect the images. The moon, waves, and beach combine to conjure up associations with the cycles of the tides and the passage of time. The impermanence of the writing in the sand creates a tension between natural forces and the intellectual and belief structures suggested by the symbols of culture. These tensions, both formal and conceptual, eccho the opposing forces in Lorca’s plays in which the characters are driven by human  passions that collide with social and religious principles. Lustig orchestrated a visual poetry of subtle association that transcends literal illustration.”


Ned Drew, Paul Sternberg. By its cover: modern American book cover design. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2005 (p. 49)

“Although Lustig would probably have considered it but a small part of his overall output, no single project is more significant in the history of modern book covers, and possibly graphic design in general, than Lorca 3 Tragedies (1948). It is a masterpiece of symbolic acuity, compositional strenght, and impromptu lettering. Moreover, the late twentieth century preference among American book jacket designers for contiguous interrelated images, photo-illustration, expressionist typography, and rebus-like compositions can be traced directly to Lustig’s black-and-white cover for Lorca.”


Steven Heller, Elaine Lustig Cohen. Born modern: the life and design of Alvin Lustig. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2010 (p. 62)

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