Leonetto Cappiello (1875-1942) is known as the “father of modern advertising” for his revolutionary vision of the promotional poster. Though he studied under the great Jules Chéret at the printing house Vercasson, he eventually broke away from the established aesthetic spawned by the Impressionists and developed his own style: flat backgrounds, bold and saturated hues, and animated scenes that nearly burst off the page.
“The mission of this orange-haired dancer was to attract visitors at the 1900 Paris World’s Fair to come to the Folies-Bergère… Cappiello chose a variant of the can-can dancer from his first Frou-Frou poster of the year before. Still rooted in his early caricature style, it is nevertheless an excellent poster, with its flat colors and eye-catching quality. The image was also issued in an edition of 100 copies, before letters (of which this is one), and an extremely limited silk edition of only 10 copies. Although all contemporary references make it clear that the Frou-Frou poster was Cappiello’s first, a black-and-white flyer was issued which proclaimed this to be ‘The First Poster of Cappiello.’ It is not clear if this was also issued in 1900” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 39).
“For Champagne de Rochegré, one of the products of the Chamonard distillery in Epernay, Cappiello has an elegant woman in a formal black dress taking a delicate sip as if afraid that too much of the bubbly might go to her head” (Wine Spectator, 162). This is one of Cappiello’s most effective and charming designs.
“In Le Friquet (The Sparrow), Polaire plays the leading role of a girl who was found as an abandoned baby, adopted by a clown, and grows up in the circus. The tragic romantic melodrama ends with her plunging to her death from a trapeze, as she feels jilted by her lover whom she spies with another from her height. The play opened in 1904, and was well received. Catulle Mendes declared: ‘Half of Paris has come to see the play, and Mlle. Polaire is making the other half run to see it as well'” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 68). It’s rare to see the entire poster, with the text banners at top and bottom, as shown here in this three-sheet design.
Cherry-flavored with a hint of quinine, Maurin’s apéritif was only recently reintroduced to French and international markets—more than a century after fading into obscurity the year this poster was printed. Referencing the infamous green fairy imagery commonly associated with absinthe, this green devil is one of Cappiello’s most famous characters. This is the smaller, one-sheet version of the poster.
“Possibly to express the regal aspect of the Cognac Henry Mounier, a perspective which focuses on the richness of the robe of this title drinker. Of course, this also emphasizes the age of the cognac firm, founded in 1820. With bottle raised in one hand and drink downed with the other, we are truly in the throes of drinking ecstasy” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 116). Rare!
“Three vivacious beauties dance jubilantly after experiencing the tonic effect of Florio apéritif wine. The company merged with Cinzano in 1930” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 133). Rare!
“In Cappiello’s later years, caricature, now more polished and refined, makes an appearance every now and again. This second poster for Cachou Lajaunie, a breath freshener to counteract the effects of her cigarette, gets our attention with a woman in a startling dress decorated with large sequins in shades reminiscent of autumn foliage” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 196).
Heralded by the golden muse as “the best deal in the world,” a Bellanger car hovers effortlessly within a globe-decorated tire. This was the first post-World War I automobile produced by the Bellanger Brothers, who began making cars in 1912 in the Paris suburb of Neuilly. The factory would close four years after this poster’s conception due to technological limitations.
Cappiello’s whimsy and penchant for word play makes this a memorable design for an unremarkable product: “Black Butterfly” shoe polish. The elf with the winged headdress looks as though he might just flutter away at any moment. Rare!
“Ricqlès, a silk merchant from Lyon, is credited with the invention of ‘alcool de menthe’ in 1838, originally claiming for it the usual all-healing properties associated with most of the stomach bitters of that period, except that Mr. Micqlès took it a step further by saying that he was inspired by divine guidance” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 252). This is perhaps why we see a pair of angels proudly brandishing a bottle on the product’s label.
“The haughty sensuality of this Spanish dancer is captured with sunny aplomb by Cappiello, featuring the legendary Conchita Supervia (1895-1936) in the title role of [Franz Lehár’s] Frasquitta, coincidentally the only light-opera appearance ever made by the sultry diva. The featherweight musical indulgence revolves around gypsy fascination, unjust accusation and, of course, eventual love” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 307). All copies of this image appear without text.
In-gallery viewing February 7-22 (daily 11am-6pm)