Four artists significantly advanced the art of the poster between the 1880s and the 1950s. Coincidentally they all have surnames beginning with the letter “C.” Jules Chéret (1836-1932) popularized color lithography with his “Chérettes,” the joyous and elegant women of his posters. Leonetto Cappiello (1875-1942), known as the “father of the advertising poster,” eschewed Chéret’s crowded backgrounds for one significant, iconic, bursting image. A. M. Cassandre (1901-1968), philosopher of the poster form, concentrated on elevating the poetic potential of the advertising WORD using radical modernist forms. Paul Colin (1892-1986), steeped in the black jazz scene of Paris in the ’20s, helped usher in the Art Deco age.
33 5/8 x 47 3/4 in./85.3 x 121.2 cm
What flowers shall you pluck? What flowers shall you miss? This Chéret has several ghostly figures lurking in the background: a horse-drawn carriage with two ladies in it, on the right; a gentleman in a top hat; and, at the far left, a figure whose outlines are just barely present. Many of Chéret’s designs offer this strange looking-over-one’s-shoulder effect, but this one presents a particularly weird – a delightfully weird – frisson upon a charming and innocent flower festival, which takes place in Bagnères-de-Luchon each August, even today.
33 x 47 3/4 in./83.7 x 121.2 cm
Perhaps to show that this lamp can be handled even by a child, Chéret allows a little tyke to run around with it, while another one carries a canister of kerosene, making it clear that the days of helicopter parenting are far in the future.
50 x 77 1/4 in./127 x 196.2 cm
Bold, haughty crimson, and flame-yellow lettering, aren’t the typical hues for advertising anis drinks, which are usually colorless or tinted green in the bottle. But Cappiello manages to pull it off, this time for Marie Brizard, a brand since 1755. Once again Cappiello reaches deep inside the brand to extract its essence. He blends the Bourbon baroque of 18th-century France with Brizard’s chief ingredient, aniseed from Andalusia (today, Marie Brizard uses 20-30% of all aniseed produced in Andalusia), for a brand of fire and luxury, the sweet morsel derived from the little green fairy. This is the larger format version.
30 5/8x 46 3/4 in./77.8 x 118.7 cm
The indelible apex of Deco cool has a practical back story: with automobile production on the rise, by the 1920s the demand for safety glass was soaring. To meet this demand, Ford Motor Company teamed up with Pilkington, an English glass manufacturer, and formed Triplex in 1923. The question for Cassandre: how to to advertise safety glass without actually showing it in action, amid the violence and destruction that would attend? Here’s the answer, with exceptional cleverness: glass becomes something you both look at, and look through, by giving it an angle. The driver’s strong, confident fists wrap around the steering wheel while framing the glass-pane; the steering wheel reflects the X of Triplex, solidifying the connection between brand and driver.
44 5/8 x 60 3/4 in./113.5 x 154.3 cm
From 1879 to 1944, Le Nouvelliste was a daily French newspaper based out of Lyon. This is one of Cassandre’s earliest works for the political publication, depicting in a stylized geometric pattern in French-themed tricolor, how the morning bird swiftly delivers the paper to one’s door. Quite rare!
15 3/4 x 23 5/8 in./40 x 60.2 cm
The Bal Tabarin opened its doors in 1904, and became home to the cancan, then later the Charleston, and then whatever the latest dance craze was. From the outside it looked like the entrance to a tomb, but inside it was hot and, as the magazine Candide put it: “The star of the Tabarin, that’s woman” (March 4, 1937). Colin expresses this idea graphically with one of his favorite techniques, a multiple exposure of three women doing the cancan, the charleston, and a ballroom dance. This is the smaller format.
15 1/2 x 19 5/8 in./39.3 x 50 cm
This wild, frenetically sketched image of Josephine Baker dancing on a grand piano may well have been a study for the more refined artwork sold at our last auction (see PAI-LXXIV, 275). Certain differences are apparent: here, Josephine is topless, she’s pivoting on the opposite leg, and another unclothed figure is in the background, rather than a swaying Eiffel Tower. But this one is undoubtedly more fun: far more in sync with late-night improv jam sessions, with hints of Picasso (and, to a certain extent, anticipating Basquiat!)