One of the last great poster artists, Villemot studied with the Art Deco master Paul Colin, then made his career with long-term work for Orangina, Bally, Perrier and Air France. His style, one of colorful, whimsical sophistication, was ideal for the Pop Art ‘80s – he could be both child-like and playful, and flirtatious and erotic – often all at the same time.
Perrier has been bottled from its source in Vergèze since 1898, but in the late 1970s-early ’80s the brand began its ascent to one of the international touchstones of 1980s culture and lifestyle. One of the main ways Perrier accomplished that was through its advertising: modern, stylish, slightly irreverent – and deliberately championing the pop moment, rather than resting on tradition. Villemot’s art was a critical part of this strategy, and this piece – “Crazy with thirst?” – is a perfect example of it. Formally, compositionally, it’s perfect, but it goes much further. In this and other pieces for this campaign, Villemot was one of the first commercial artists to directly counter racist attitudes, making this a very early statement of the universal “love is love is love.”
Villemot has posed the two nude dancers to look like a lotus blossom. His study for this poster was, in fact, titled “Lotus” and on publication was quickly dubbed “Les Femmes-Fleurs.” The bottom text panel has been eliminated in this specimen.
It shouldn’t work, but it does – this tripping, off-kilter jumble of reds, blacks, blues, browns and the palest pink – and Villemot’s tangle of legs and shoes manages to be witty, flirtatious and a little erotic at the same time. This is the larger version of the poster.
One of the final works of Villemot, the “painter-laureate of commercial art,” his longstanding relationship with Bally Shoes concludes with an insouciant note of triumph, as this chic maven of late ’80s style is bouncing Planet Earth off the sole of her shoe. In the shadow, you can see Villemot is appealing to the male shoe buyer as well.
Villemot’s sole poster for Air Afrique, this is a beautiful and rare image featuring a bush bock abstracted through traditional African oilcloth patterns. It’s one of only two known specimens of the uncut sheet with full margins.
A master of colors and forms, Villemot created an indelible visual identity for Orangina and carried it through dozens of iterations over the years. This one cheerfully exploits the ‘80s MTV trend for primary-hued pop art. We hardly notice that the curvaceous sunbather – reminiscent of a Matisse nude – is carrying the familiar orange-peel swirl in red, on the hat and bikini-top. This is the smaller format.