Skip to content

The Curious Case of Toulouse Le Grandfig, Graphic Designer (Part One)


File #: 12-23571-X
Dr. Abe Cornelius
Bellevue Hospital — Psychiatric Triage Center

Entry 1: Dictated: April 25, 1951

The patient was brought into the hospital by several co-workers, including his immediate supervisor at Vandelay, Alderson, Pentergrast, Ilterton and Deckard, a mid-sized advertising company on Madison Avenue.

The Creative Director, Mr. Hillary Scott, introduced Mr. Grandfig to me, and said he was not only a renowned Dadaist, but that he had been working at his firm since late 1949 as a graphic artist.

It is worth examining Mr. Grandfig’s work history to get a sense of the progress of his current disorder.

When Grandfig began working at Vandelay, Alderson, Pentergrast, Ilterton and Deckard (VAPID), he claimed to have arrived in New York from “distant lands” and needed to earn some money. He began working on the Petri account, which needed an “offbeat” touch. According to Mr. Scott, “Toulouse had a great feel for the material, and the odd touches tickled the fancy of our client.”

[See Figure 1:]
Figure One: Rodents in cowboy boots

Mr. Scott added: “The Petri campaign was quite successful, though frankly, all those rodents wearing cowboy boots were kind of disturbing.”

Next Grandfig was put to work on the Arrow Shirts campaign, which was not as successful. Though he did not actually write the copy on this ad, Mr. Grandfig did inspire it with his artwork.

[See figure 2:]
Repressed homosexuality

According to Mr. Scott: “This ad was trying to show how free you feel wearing Arrow Shirts, but frankly, it just screams to me of repressed homosexuality. That’s probably why our client liked it so much.”

Side note for later: examine possibilities of paper exploring how psychiatric terms have entered common parlance to the denigration of our profession.

From there he was put on the Jantzen account, for which Grandfig painted a number of lovely women sporting Jantzen’s clingy (and to this psychiatrist’s mind) deviant bathing wear. This went well up until sometime late in January, when Mr. Grandfig replaced the copy on the ad with his own.

[See figure 3:]
Terrfied sunbather

What other survivors is he writing of? Survivors of the war? Are these troubling images the result of some kind of trauma suffered under the Nazis? I must explore this issue in depth.

After this gaffe, Grandfig was not given any more lettering work. Left with no actual language, Grandfig clearly subsumed his rage and paranoia into his actual artwork. One glance at these paintings for the Van Camp corporation will reveal the sinister and depraved undercurrent to his thoughts.

[Figure 4:]

None as alarming as this actual artwork, which Mr. Scott mimeographed for my records. [Figure 5.] Notice the label. Instead of saying “Van Camp’s Pork and Beans”, it clearly reads “Van Camp’s Long-Pork and Beans”. Luckily, Mr. Scott caught this artwork before it went into production.

“Actually, I was torn on whether to stop it or not,” Mr. Scott told me in our interview.

“Really?” I asked.

“Yes, I thought it would be amusing to see what would happen. To see if anyone caught the reference.”

“But you decided against that?”

“Yes, but I have the original hanging in my office. It’s quite brilliant.”

Putting Mr. Scott’s artistic proclivities to the side for the moment, it must be pointed out that long-pork is a reference to cannibalism. Has Grandfig been a participant or witness to such a morally proscribed event? Perhaps the other “survivors” he spoke of have done such a thing. I have heard it was difficult in Europe after the war, but I had no idea it was so serious. Perhaps it only happened in Belgium.

Next, he was caught sneaking into the lettering room to change the text on this advert for some grocery firm.

[Figure 6:]
Your Meat Team

According to Mr. Scott, the issue was brought to a head when this advert for a Chase & Sanborn product went to press, was put on the product, and very nearly went to market.

[Figure 7:]
You can smell the rich baby flavor!

Mr. Scott felt it was safest to bring Grandfig to the hospital for his own safety as well as that of his firm, VAPID.

According to Scott: “I’m pretty sure the copy writers were going to kill him if he changed any more of their work.”

Continued in tomorrow.

Many health care professionals are concerned about the proclivities of this funny firm.Originally published, June, 2008.


  1. don don

    This is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time.

    I’m concerned for my sanity.

  2. That second kid with the beans scares me, alot!

  3. Click on Figure 5 if you really want to be freaked out. 🙂 m.

  4. I was actually physically repelled by that picture (figure 5.), good lord thats really creepy.

  5. Okay, I’m sure I saw this when you first posted it, but it is seriously cracking me up now. Especially the “meat team” ad. Okay, the “mock baby” one, too.

  6. Michael Michael

    Great story behind these images ! I had no idea…

  7. Mike Mike

    Far, far, too funny. The swimsuit model “laugh” is far too ambiguous … in the context, she is definitely screaming. Well done! A solid 9.5 on the disturbometer.

Comments are closed.