The history of neon advertising began in Paris in 1912.
At that time, exactly 14 years after two English chemists discovered noble gases, Georges Claude and Jacques Fonseque sold an advertising sign with neon writing, for a hair salon.
They realised then the potential of neon lighting in the emerging advertising industry.
The extremely flexible and thin glass tubes enable not only the production of abstract decorations, but also letters and representational images, in an almost limitless variety of colours.
Although the first neon decorations originated in France, their success began in the United States, where the first advertisements appeared in Los Angeles in 1923.
The neon sign became the ‘glowing symbol’ of America’s rise to becoming a global leader in trade and industry.
It came to be seen as the ideal expression of a modern, dynamic industrial society. The over-sized, multi-coloured, glittering neon displays transformed the open spaces of the inner city into commercial advertising space.
Our idea of ‘the American way of life’ is significantly influenced by the image of New York’s neon-lit Times Square and the bright lights of Las Vegas.
At the end of the 1920s, even the worldwide economic crisis brought no decline in neon advertising. It was after the Second World War, with competition from new advertising media, that neon gradually began to fade.
With the introduction of illuminated Plexiglass boxes, which were screen-printed, the inner cities gradually received a new, modern design, to suit the changing times.
Alongside them, the neon signage soon seemed like a symbol from a past era; American ‘art deco’ from the 1930s.
In the end, neon decoration was found mainly only in cheap bars and as advertising for rundown hotels.
It was the postmodern design of the Eighties when neon was discovered once again, and incorporated as a design feature in more fashionable bars, boutiques and discos.
At the same rate as commercial interest in neon started to fade, artists began to take interest in this medium.
Today (since 2018) neon is back and in popular demand. Once again, this greatly valued craftwork is ‘all the rage’.