There’s something perfect about the travel poster.
What I mean is the idea, the gestalt of the travel poster.
It solicits. You smile. There is no resistance.
The wall is a window – and now a door. You’re not here any more.
You are there: even, almost, better than being there, is being in the idea of there: the essence of place, and the specificity of time as created by the artist. These places being advertised – you cannot go there today. None of us can. They are idealizations of the past, which is another country. But the sensation of place, in the artistic past: that you can own. That can be yours. That endures.
One of the most spectacular travel posters of all time, Broders brings us a magical glimpse of Vichy straight out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald story. Embracing all the elegance and grandeur of the Roaring Twenties, fashionable couples gather beneath Chinese lanterns while a ballet is performed upon a floating stage. For those eager to get a closer glimpse of the show, glamorous gondolas glide around the lake, lit from above by silver fireworks.
24 7/8 x 39 1/4 in./63.2 x 99.7 cm
A gorgeous, Modernist rendering of Berne, Switzerland, where Albert Einstein conceived his Theory of Special Relativity while working in the Patent Office here. In Alan Lightman’s novella Einstein’s Dreams, we first encounter Berne as such: “Every afternoon, the townspeople of Berne convene at the west end of Kramgasse. There, at four minutes to three, the Zytgloggeturm pays tribute to time.” This Cubist rendering, with its bright red and blue shifts, might let you see Berne the way Einstein saw it.
30 1/2 x 42 5/8 in./77.5 x 108.3 cm
An understudy of Chéret, David Dellepiane returned from Paris to his childhood home of Marseilles, where he took fine advantage of the Provençal light to create dreamy Impressionist portraits of the Côte d’Azur. This, one of his most famous posters for the region, sees him emulating Renoir and Sisley – but on the far right, the lady with the parasol is rendered with a nod to British Modernism. Two other posters, for Antibes and Grasse, have nearly the same composition: just a slight difference in the trees, and in the artistic mode of presentation.
29 1/2 x 41 in./75 x 104.3 cm
Undated, but clearly meant for English travelers to the Continent during the high Modernist 1920s, this splendid Belgian poster features a stately, plump gentleman stating his clear preference for his holiday in Brussels: “First to the Royal Museum of the Cinquantenaire.” It’s one of Belgium’s great art history museums, built by King Leopold II.
24 x 39 3/8 in./60.8 x 100 cm
Jean Even was something of an artistic prodigy, winning top awards at several of France’s best art schools. (Though it certainly helps when one of your teachers is the celebrated posterist André Devambez.) In 1936, Even won the Casa Velázquez Prize, which provided French art students with a year of study at a Madrid institution specially built for the purpose. There was just one problem: the Spanish Civil War was raging, and the Casa Velázquez was partially destroyed. The students were relocated to Fez, Morocco, and that began Jean Even’s grand love affair with the country, which continued with military and commercial placements there in the 1930s and ’40s. The love is evident in this work from the 1950s. Try to remove your eyes from the curve of the blonde’s hip, and note the concatenation of stripes in palm fronds, beach cover-up and cabanas; then send your vision out to the Mountains of Atlas and admire his skill in the shadows.
24 3/4 x 39 1/2 in./63 x 100.3 cm
All eyes turn to the young mother – a vision of radiant Hollywood glamour – as this tiny (pop. 5-7,000) mining village along the coast of North Yorkshire attempts to reinvent itself. By 1915, Saltburn’s ironstone mines had loosed all their ore, so after the war, Saltburn and associated villages of the North turned to tourism. If it’s a seaside holiday, LNER will get you there.
24 3/8 x 39 in./61.8 x 99 cm
The hounds are loosed, and the horse is a-gallop amid the falling leaves of the Chantilly forest just outside Senlis, the seat of the Capetian monarchs in medieval France. This travel poster for the French railway not only explicitly invokes the royal tradition of the hunt, but hints at the Hunting Museum housed in the former St-Maurice Priory of the city.
29 3/4 x 41 in./75.5 x 104.2 cm
A desert traveler upon his camel, traversing the dunes of the Sahara, entices members (and would-be members) of one of the oldest group-travel associations in the world, the Touring-Club de France, founded in 1890 by bicycle enthusiasts. The travel package promises Roman ruins, mosques, oases, picturesque gorges, forests and “troglodytes” – meaning, in its original and literal sense, “cave-dwellers.”
28 5/8 x 42 7/8 in./72.6 x 109 cm
An exquisitely colored portrait for the Japan Travel Bureau foregrounds two traditionally dressed Japanese women enraptured by the seasonal hues, as a waterfall plummets from the mountains into the rushing stream beside them, spanned by the famous Shinkyo Bridge. Just 125 km north of Tokyo, Nikko is Japan’s version of Vermont, and the rapturous reds, ambers and ochres of this poster are as true-to-life as a photo.