“To define Art Deco is as impossible as pinning a dozen live butterflies to a cork specimen board,” wrote the English art critic Brian Sewell (1931-2015). But you’ll know it when you see it: an attempt to fuse the forms of Classical idealism with the machine-driven industrialism of the early 20th century. The ideas of Art Deco had been burbling for a quarter century, at least; the 1925 Exposition Internationale des arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes defined the idea, and Le Corbusier gave it its name.
24 5/8 x 38 5/8 in./62.5 x 98 cm
Located in Switzerland’s Bernese Alps, Grindelwald is a popular tourist destination—made even more enticing with Bieber’s bold use of line and color. The grinning Herr in the foreground is lavishly drawn with expressive lines and shadows—note the perfectly believable crinkles in his coat sleeve—while the background is all simple geometric forms and spare lines. A beautiful example of Bieber’s unique creative vision.
24 1/4 x 39 1/2 in./61.7 x 100.4 cm
“The Queen of Iodine”—the monarch of fine sand and salty air—is the sobriquet of Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer, on the Calvados coast, and the title of this bathing beauty with her beach ball and her back to us. Rather than clear sky, Hardy boldly delivers gathering clouds upon the Normandy beaches, which—in hindsight—can be read as foreshadowing.
24 3/8 x 39 in./62 x 99.2 cm
“The graphic work of E. McKnight Kauffer revolutionized the face of the London Underground. Between 1915 and 1935 he not only created a total of 141 posters for the company but also revitalized portions of the subway stations throughout the city with murals and other examples of public art. This remains one of his most ambitious and rare compositions, fusing images of man and machine to best express the raw energy behind London’s electrified train service.” Note that “in the upper right, blocks of electric-blue water flow into a simplified rendering of the Battersea Power Station—construction of which was the first stage of the London Power Company’s effort to nationalize electric service…” and “at the heart of the turbine is the iconic symbol for the Underground” (Crouse/Deco, p. 266).
47 1/4 x 62 3/8 in./120 x 158.4 cm
This vivacious Art Deco poster combines aesthetic styles and imagery to explore the world of “The Woman of My Dreams,” a musical comedy that was released as a French film in 1931. Tidbits of the plot arise out of the scene, including a banjo player, a troupe of suited dancers, nighttime city lights, a dapper duo, and a bottle of champagne that punctuates the festive scene. The film would later be reprised by Michael Curtis in 1952; Doris Day was the star. It’s also worth noting that we believe the artist dropped her maiden name after designing this poster, and then signed her work with her married name: Germaine Verna. During her time in Paris, she was closely associated with a group of artists known as “les Montparnos.”
41 x 61 3/8 in./104.2 x 155.8 cm
Who else but Mauzan could design such a decadent scene for Buenos Aires’ most exquisite cabaret? Armenonville was revered not just for its lush green gardens and ballrooms flaunting large chandeliers, but for its performances as well—it was the birthplace of tango, after all. By 1927, the venue had been open for 16 years, and would sadly close at the end of the 20s. But the venue was in its prime when this poster was made, and this delightful scene from their “Antarctic Parties” is testament to the cabaret’s mesmerizing performances.
19 7/8 x 30 1/8 in./50.5 x 76.5 cm
Fireworks, brilliant lighting, and a happy wave from an official hostess greet us at the Fair’s opening ceremonies. An image befitting “the grandest illusion of the century” (Trylon, p. 39) that was The World of Tomorrow.
13 3/8 x 20 1/2 in./24 x 52 cm
“‘La Grande Folie’ (The Great Folly) remained faithful to Paul Derval’s principles: a title of thirteen letters, the same number as all his other revues, lavish decors and costumes but no superstar. The poster on the other hand is surprising. The Folies rarely produced anything as ‘art deco-ish’… The image of this couple embracing, where we discover… a mixture of cubism, some of Halouze’s style and some of Colin’s, appears to be a ‘practical work’ of the 1920’s… The letters, the people, are hurled into our faces with a bluntness that is a far cry from the mannered elegance of most music hall posters” (Folies-Bergère, p. 13).
37 5/8 x 49 1/2 in./95.6 x 125.6 cm
This very rare Art Deco triumph for Josephine Baker is unsigned, but we are attributing it to Tibor Réz-Diamant, Hungary’s most acclaimed Art Deco poster designer. Réz (as he is often called) created a world-famous poster for Baker’s first tour of Budapest in 1928. (She performed at the Royal Orfeum Theater for a month). According to Anikó Katona in the Hungarian Review of July 27, 2018, Réz created several other “posters of Josephine Baker and her Hungarian ‘avatar’ Nusi Somogyi.”
30 1/2 x 45 7/8 in./77.5 x 116.5 cm
Deco angularity announces the modernity of a stunning invention: a cigarette that masks its own noxious fumes with perfumes—derived, it says, from rose petals—delivering a secondhand smoking experience second-to-none. Interestingly, organic specialists tell us that primrose oil is a time-tested remedy for flushing tar deposits from the lungs and lymph system.
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