Lush decorative designs from Spain, France, Italy, Belgium, and the United States exemplify the tenets of Art Nouveau: curvilinear forms, organic patterns, and romantic muses combine to celebrate beauty in its highest form. Our 81st auction includes masterful works from Bonnard, Bradley, Chéret, Mucha, Steinlen, and more.
20 3/4 x 32 1/2 in./52.7 x 82.5 cm
Spain’s foremost practitioner of modernisme proves here that his work is an excellent rival to French Art Nouveau. While undoubtedly influenced by the style, the Spanish aesthetic of the late 19th century invited a broader integration of the arts. Notice here the influence of Japanese woodblock printing in the layers of floral details that traipse into the scene; the woman’s fiery red tendrils and loose dress reference Pre-Raphaelite portraits; the composition and symbolist imagery are a nod to Belgian posterists like Livemont. Ultimately, the design is meant to promote shoe polish: a testament to de Riquer’s unique vision, as well as his goal to democratize art by bringing visions such as these to the average people.
22 3/8 x 29 1/2 in./57 x 79.5 cm
This is a rare proof before letters in the smaller format. “We know just enough about Jane Atché to be intrigued. She was born in Toulouse, worked in lithographic prints—at first in black and white only, later in color—and earned an honorable mention at the Salon of the Société des Artistes Français in 1902. Her scarce posters all disclose that Mucha was obviously [a strong influence]” (Wine Spectator, 101). Abdy, in fact, considers Atché one of Mucha’s two best followers in France (p. 100). Of her half dozen known posters, this one for the cigarette paper firm is her most spectacular. We get the lyricism of Art Nouveau in the handling of the green dress and the smoke, combined with a compelling Lautrec-esque management of the solid black cape as it slashes through the design. On all levels, it succeeds completely.
17 1/4 x 24 7/8 in./43.7 x 63.2 cm
The drawing of a woman admonishing her dog appears only half-finished, with the right side remaining blank, but all the pertinent elements are there: the fashionable veiled hat, the gesture of the gloved hand, and the attentive pose of the pooch. Colta Ives, in the catalogue of the Bonnard exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum, speaks of “the softly delineated forms [in the Salon des Cent], enhanced with touches of modeling and color” and feels that although he was part of the Nabis group, “his adoption of a more relaxed and lyrically sensuous approach” set him apart from that fraternity (Ives, p. 6). This charming invitation is surely one of the finest and most sensitive lithographs of Bonnard and of the entire Salon des Cent series.
33 3/4 x 59 5/8 in./85.8 x 126 cm
“Originally seen from the back in an 1892 design writing the words ‘Chocolat Menier’ on a wall, she returned many times over the years, sometimes scrawling different words in other languages, but always cutting an irresistible tomboyish figure” (Gold, p. 43). This variant shows the girl scrawling the brand’s name on the wall.
9 1/4 x 20 in./23.5 x 50.7 cm
All the features—and considerable talent—that made Bradley America’s preeminent Art Nouveau master are on display here, including his detailed ornamentation and fascination with typography. He excelled in giving his images a certain graphic rhythm, with the sweeping curves and lines complementing and reinforcing each other until they create a composition that attracts and fascinates with an insistent pattern. Here we are offered a wide frame decorated with a floral pattern, a central design in languid lines and sharp colors, and the quaint typeface with red capitals. It’s quintessential Bradley.
25 3/8 x 19 in./64.5 x 48.3 cm
In 1908, Chéret graced the halls of the Palais des Rois de Sardaigne with six large-scale paintings dedicated to Nice’s Carnival and concurrent Batailles de fleurs. Here, we see his preparatory work for one of the panels which wraps around the entryway to the gallery; in the center, Chéret has included a design of the doorway. In vibrant colors, he depicts a joyous picnic scene with musicians and frolicking guests. In 1999, the panels were thoroughly cleaned to recover their original vibrant colors, and they remain on view to this day.
15 3/4 x 21 1/4 in./40 x 54 cm
We virtually never see posters for professional services—but this advertisement for Paul Hankar, one of Belgium’s best Art Nouveau architects, is really something special. To promote Hankar’s exteriors, Crespin takes an inward dive to illuminate the life within. In this perfectly proportioned work, symbolic forms—from compasses to honeycombs, rulers and protractors—surround the architect as an expression of his own mind. “The warm and vivid coloring further adds, if that’s possible, to the merit of this print which remains one of the best—if not the very best —of Crespin” (Beaumont, p. 48).
18 1/4 x 24 1/4 in./46.3 x 61.5 cm
Though more commonly seen without text, this is the complete version of Foache’s erotic reverie to advertise the Cassan Fils printing firm. With or without text, it’s a dreamy vision with irises and daffodils that shimmer amidst metallic inks—a composition inspired by Mucha’s Salon de Cent. This copy bears text reading “Gift from the Toulouse Society of Lithographers.” Rare!
21 5/8 x 32 7/8 in./55 x 83.5 cm
This very early example of American posters—designed by this rarely seen female posterist—is a small but beautiful revolution. Boundaries are disrupted as the woman’s pendant drapes over the lettering; dragonflies flit to the corners of their frames as if they’re ready to fly off the page. The female figure, too, is almost precariously placed with a giant basket of flowers on her head—but she is serene and composed. “Only two posters are known by Glenny: one for the women’s edition of the Buffalo Courier, another for the 1897 exhibition of the Buffalo Fine Art Academy and Society of Artists. Both are among the most beautifully printed American posters of the 1890s. These designs have the cool, classic frontality that could be perfectly at home in one of McKim, Mead, and White’s classical-revival buildings or at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Glenny’s drawing is firm and assured, and her feeling for color is unmatched. She trained as a painter in New York and Paris and specialized in murals” (Lauder, p. 187).
19 3/4 x 27 7/8 in./50.2 x 70.8 cm
Hassall created two inspired designs for the pantomime performance of Little Red Riding Hood. As The Poster noted, “… each has the saving merit of simplicity. Both are decorative, without running into intricate and ineffective detail. Nothing could be more charming than the little red-cloaked figure treading her way amongst a crowd of flaunting scarlet poppies, while the wolf from the brow of the bleak hill engages himself in unholy contemplation of her. This bill performs its business of advertising to admiration, and is excellent alike in colour and composition” (December 1898, p. 242).
15 3/8 x 23 3/4 in./39 x 60.3 cm
Clearly an admirer of Mucha, Hingre—who worked in metal and stone sculptures in addition to being a graphic artist—creates a superior Art Nouveau promotional panel for the metal stamping firm of Breger & Javal. Wildly extravagant hair is just a jumping-off point with this opulently bejeweled, black-winged otherworldly creature, crowned with sensuous poppies and brandishing an hourglass to show the viewer that the figurative clock has already begun to tick. Not only does the image adhere to and elaborate upon Art Nouveau tenets, it creates a fantastical, riveting impression.
25 1/8 x 37 in./63.8 x 94 cm
During a 25-year period beginning in 1889, Hohenstein created more than 100 poster masterpieces for the Milanese printing and publishing firm Ricordi. This image of a woman holding a bunch of irises in front of a religiously themed glass window displays the rich colors and flowing lines that mark all of Hohenstein’s work—the fine composition and graphic impact of this design make it one of his best.
55 3/4 x 80 3/8 in./141.6 x 204.2 cm
Three elegant creatures take a two-sheet stroll—two of them showing off their latest finery from the Mele department store, the third equally well coifed and wearing fur. Malerba designed a number of posters for Ricordi, including at least three for Mele. “This poster of 1910 is the best bearing the painter Malerba’s signature and certainly among the most interesting of the Mele posters” (Mele, p. 206). Rare!
29 3/4 x 42 7/8 in./75 x 109 cm
“Mucha went all out with a most opulent design. The shy maiden, kneeling, enraptured with the tranquility of the bay of Monte-Carlo, is completely encircled by the curving stalks of lilacs and hydrangeas, featuring some of the most intricate conflorescences ever painted by Mucha. Since the client was a railroad—Chemin de Fer P.L.M.—it is probable that the design is meant to suggest the tracks and wheels that convey the public to Monte-Carlo. The maiden is probably Spring herself, enraptured with the beauty of the seascape” (Rennert/Weill, p. 136).
45 1/4 x 61 5/8 in./115 x 156.6 cm
Spratt’s was a major British pet food producer with branches in several countries (their U.S. factory was located in Newark, NJ). Here, the French branch advertises with a poster stressing dog food. “Roubille uses a restrained yet warm style to show a happy mistress dispensing Spratt’s treats to her clamoring canines” (Gold, p. 14). It’s surely one of the finest animal-centered images in the poster medium.
37 1/2 x 51 in./95 x 129.4 cm
There is no consensus as to what Steinlen’s highly-regarded “Mothu et Doria” is actually trying to portray. A singing duo in Aristide Bruant’s social-realist mode? A stage drama? Is it a moment of socioeconomic conflict or comity? All we really know is this: a gentleman, likely returning from the Opera, proffers a cigar so that a raffish gentleman with sunken cheeks can light his own cigarette in the foggy gaslight of a Parisian night. Its ambiguity alone defines it as a superb work of art.
27 1/2 x 37 in./69.7 x 94 cm
“Van Rysselberghe exerted a positive force for the revitalization of the decorative arts at the turn of the century, but his posters are not numerous; those he created for La Libre Esthétique are unquestionably the finest. The elegant feminine figures of his posters, very knowingly placed on the page, seem to be the pretext for Van Rysselberghe to balance large spots of red-orange against their greenish or bluish complementaries. The text is beautifully drawn and gracefully integrated into the design of the posters” (Belle Epoque 1970, p. 86).