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, 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).
“A cigarette with a name like Le Globe virtually goads Cappiello into making the world go ’round with the smoke from the lady’s cigarette. The lettering at lower left indicates that this printing, at least, was intended for the eyes of the Far Eastern commuter” (Cappiello/Rennert, 199). Rare!
Fancy a dip in some nice warm bouillon broth? Though we wouldn’t recommend trying this at home, the concept does make for a fantastic image in Cappiello’s hands. The man daintily hanging above the steam is Alexandre Duval; his father, Paul-Louis, owned a butcher shop and brasserie which served primarily beef broth to Parisians. Alexandre then broadened the scope of business by opening several restaurants, the most famous of which was Bouillons Duval. But he was not just a man of the broth—he was a cultured man of the world, who proudly wore purple clothes with muslin cuffs, lace frills, and demi-top hats. He appears to have been fondly admired, which earned him the nickname “Godfrey of Bouillon” after the French nobleman and leader of the First Crusade. This design originally appeared in the January 18, 1908 issue of Le Rire.
“What the red horse did for Chocolat Klaus, the zebra did for Cinzano—and for Cappiello. With a highly respected, long-established firm from his native country endorsing his unorthodox approach to advertising, he was now universally honored as a pioneer of the new bold wave of product publicists. Jacques Vienot declared it a revolutionary poster and announced that 1910 ‘was not only an important date in the career of Cappiello, but an important year in the history of the art of the poster’ (p. 61). Shrewd enough to recognize that [this poster was a stroke of genius], the progressive firm used his talents again and again, and even twenty years down the road, when they merged with Florio, they called on him and used the association to their advantage with a second zebra” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 118).
“Many products at this time referred to themselves as the ‘Queen’ or ‘King’ of this or that category. This was obviously meant to indicate that they were what we could today call the ‘top of the line.’ And Cappiello readily crowns them, even if it’s a prosaic binder that calls itself Le Roi des Classeurs (The King of the Binders) and that Emile Gautier of Le Journal, in a letter about to be punched into the binder also calls ‘The Binder of Kings.’ It claims to be the sole binder that holds papers while at the same time perforating them. Naturally it’s available at all fine stationery outlets. And in a letter dated April 23, 1913 to Mr. Derveaux, ‘inventor and manufacturer of the Roi des Classeurs,’ a satisfied customer testifies that he has been using the binder for more than a year and it has functioned so admirably, he would like to order 25 more!” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 170). Rare!
“The producer of the Booddah Brand of tea’s transparent attempt to somehow associate its product with Buddha inspired Cappiello to favor us with an Eastern potentate on a rajah-sized throne partaking of the beverage” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 181). Rare!
Personifying the spring (Source Reine), a fairy is used to promote the Spa-Monopole waters. Cappiello originally envisioned this design in a maquette created before World War I; after the war ended, Vercasson was able to print the poster.
When the subject matter is spectacular in and of itself, as Monaco doubtlessly is, Cappiello felt that it need not be extolled flamboyantly; just a woman tossing blossoms about, the Riviera coast in the background, and voila! A perfectly charming image.
As the tagline at the top would imply, Nanquette stoves get hot fast so you can start cooking immediately. Cappiello puts his clever whimsy to work by negating the sun’s self-heating power to show us just how necessary a Nanquette is for all beings, human or celestial.
When M. Revel founded his Lyon-based umbrella company in 1851, one could purchase his wares in both silk and cotton. While the subject matter may seem slightly ordinary, the poster is one of Cappiello’s most ingenious and delightful designs. As effective as it is simple, one sees “the umbrellas braving the storm like black ships’ sails. All the elements of fine poster design are here: bold shapes, strong contrasts (the background is a surprising sunny yellow), tight yet lively composition, unusual perspective—and no more detail than necessary” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 236). Although the company closed its doors in the 1950s, this poster remains a testament to its once brilliant advertising campaign. This is the three-sheet version of the poster.
In contrast to the deeply colored, almost mystical image Cappiello created for this brand in 1906, the artist gives us this lighthearted social scene 23 years later. The hedge behind the drinkers, all a-fury in the wind, creates a kind of energetic vortex in which the two female tipplers are blown away by the fresh minty taste of Menthe-Pastille, while the waiter side-eyes them.
In-gallery viewing Oct. 30 – Nov. 14 (daily 11am-6pm)