The two masters of French Modernism in poster form are here to astound you.
This is the first, and the rarest, of all the variations on Cassandre’s world-famous poster for the Normandie: the very first impression travelers would have had of the magnificent ship. “The simplicity and symmetry of Cassandre’s frontal view of the looming hull of the liner immediately conveys its gigantic scale and streamlined elegance. Cassandre developed a striking visual language inspired by avant-garde art in Paris and counts among the most important graphic artists of the 20th century” (V&A Museum).
This is one of four versions of Cassandre’s Normandie poster available in this auction – all from 1935, the Normandie‘s inaugural cruise year – outfitted with variant text. Each is estimated at between $10,000 and $20,000.
30 1/2 x 45 7/8 in./77.3 x 116.5 cm
This is one of Cassandre’s most economically realized images, with every line, curve, and shape serving a well-defined function. It is also one of his rarest: it nearly defies logic that such a splendid image was not preserved with more available copies. The reason may well be that this was one of the very first posters ever created by the master.
Cassandre’s most popular and enduring advertising idea was for Dubonnet, an odd aperitif created with fortified wine, herbs, spices and quinine. It’s basically the French version of the gin-&-tonic: a drink invented so French Foreign Legionnaires in North Africa could get the quinine down. For a commercial market, however, the libation was a little more dubious. Cassandre ran with it: “Dubo,” (a casual French word for ‘doubt’); “Dubon” (‘good’)… Dubonnet. This 1932 version of the “Dubonnet” is exquisitely colored, with the faded primary-color backgrounds of red-blue-yellow corresponding to the emotional / psychological state of the drinker. In addition, its evocation of the wine and its bottle are particularly three-dimensional in their rendering, and the coloration of the border all contribute to a superb combination of two- and three-dimensional perspectives.
24 5/8 x 39 1/2 in./62.5 x 100.3 cm
A startling night profile of a lighthouse advertises the Folkestone-Dunkirk train ferry across the English Channel. It is signed as coming from the atelier of Cassandre, yet the master’s hand is clearly evident in this striking Art Deco design.
23 3/4 x 31 7/8 in./60.3 x 81 cm
Paul Colin’s life was immersed in the French music hall, beginning with his appointment in 1925 as decorator of the Théâtre des Champs Elysées, launching a prolific career as a posterist, designer, painter and illustrator. In many ways, his position accelerated the elevation of Josephine Baker to star status, beginning with her prominent placement on his poster for the Revue Nègre (see PAI-XXXV, 267). In an interview, Colin said, “I looked for one such perfect body, and I found her: Josephine Baker” (Colin, p. 7). During this early period of meteoric fame, Colin produced this maquette, setting Baker free upon the color-saturated Parisian stage, her motion and limbs creating a twin exposure of visual syncopation.
47 5/8 x 62 3/4 in./121 x 159.5 cm
“The two pianos which André Renaud played simultaneously are thrown at us with seeming abandon, but, like all these geometric ‘tricks’ of Colin, they are very deliberately drawn for maximum effect. The effect Colin seeks here – to overwhelm us with the wizardry of Renaud – is achieved by the overwhelming size of the pianos. Renaud, who went on to become a bandleader, even played the two pianos blindfolded for a while” (Colin, p. 9).
37 1/2 x58 3/4 in./95.2 x 149.3 cm
This comedy by Andre-Paul Antoine tells the tale of three ghosts who meet on a park bench, only to discover they’d all been in love with the same woman – who had, in some way, been responsible for each of their deaths. A novel in 1928, it made its way to the avant-garde Studio des Champs Elyssés theatre in 1930, and then became an award-winning film in 1936.
29 5/8 x 45 in./75.3 x 114.4 cm
One of several posters Colin created as public service messages. To promote headlight checkups for the French bureau of accident insurance, he gives us a heedless country cyclist picked out in the darkness by a car’s oncoming brights; even the lettering seems to be illuminated by the the vehicle’s beams. With its central halo of light emanating from a black background, the succinct design recalls Colin’s masterful poster for Leroy Opticians (see PAI-XLIII, 283).
44 3/4 x 61 in./113.7 x 155 cm
The 1946 Cannes Film Festival was meant as a celebration of unity after the horrors of World War II – a sentiment that is emphasized by the film reel in this poster being made up of the participating countries’ flags. The background colors are exceptionally vibrant and saturated – a triumph for the Bedos printing company. It is the rarest of all Cannes designs.
In-gallery viewing October 12 to 27 (daily 11am-6pm)