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 82nd auction includes masterful works from Bradley, Chéret, Heine, Livemont, Mucha, Penfield, Steinlen, and more.
28 x 42 in./71 x 106.5 cm
Best known for his Harper’s series, this is one of three spectacular bicycle posters produced by Penfield in a larger format. It’s not just the size: they “show the true genius of the artist. In these and other posters, Penfield can be compared most favorably to Lautrec—his figures are at once introspective and yet powerful, gathering their impact from a delicate balance in composition and the use of wide areas of flat colors” (Bicycle Posters, p. 10). This printing bears the stamp of Sagot, Paris’ foremost poster dealer.
37 7/8 x 61 in./96.2 x 153.7 cm
Known for his love of intricate patterns based on nature and the work of Art Nouveau bad boy Aubrey Beardsley, Bradley does not shy away from giving a heavy nod to both in this painstakingly detailed design. With its rhythmic variety and organic flow of line, it’s obvious why it is considered one of the greatest examples of American poster art. As for the product itself, the Victor bicycle was launched by A.H. Overman in 1887, and was among the first to include wheels of matching height (as opposed to the velocipede which had a higher front wheel). Here, Bradley promotes the Torino-based Italian distributor of the brand.
28 3/4 x 39 in./73 x 99 cm
This rare and fanciful design showcases various bicycles and automobiles constructed at Dion Bouton’s Puteaux factory as they compete in a nighttime race to the moon. The artist took his inspiration from Georges Méliès “A Trip to the Moon,” the 1902 experimental science fiction tale that is considered one of the most influential films in cinema history. We can see the same sense for the overtly theatrical and the sublime in this mesmerizing design. The artist’s initials, at lower left, appear to be H. B.
27 3/8 x 55 5/8 in./69.4 x 141.2 cm
The 1910 Milan Air Meet marked the first midair collision between two planes in recorded history. On October 3, René Thomas in his Antoinette monoplane accidentally collided with the rear of Captain Bertram Dickson’s Farman biplane. Although both survived, Dickson’s piloting career was ruined due to extreme injury. This sweeping poster by Mazza is a rare and wonderful design.
17 7/8 x 25 1/4 in./45.3 x 64 cm
Rassenfosse created a sophisticated and straightforward design that visually links the Salon with its sister publication La Plume. In the background, a woman peruses the latest creations by artists represented at the Salon, while the lady facing us views the same images within the pages of the magazine. On the bottom, it notes that La Plume was the official publication of the Salon—but it was technically the other way around; La Plume used the Salon as a marketing outlet for the art it published. The exhibitions lasted until 1900, while the magazine stayed in circulation until 1913.
34 5/8 x 48 3/4 in./88 x 124 cm
This is one of Chéret’s most ebullient and animated scenes, full of verve and gusto. A classic Chérette leads her twirling comrades to a student ball that was surely as effervescent as this design. This poster has become increasingly difficult to find—rare!
18 x 27 1/8 in./45.5 x 68.8 cm
Heine hit the graphic design jackpot with this striking image for the German satirical magazine, Simplicissimus, which he co-founded and illustrated for 10 years. Launched in 1896, the magazine was bitingly critical of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s regime, rigid hierarchies, Prussian militarism, and the newly rich. Simplicissimus was frequently censored and even confiscated by the police; after one such incident, Heine responded with this bold design which centers on a crisp red bulldog—symbolizing the common people—who refuses to be chained up. “This classical German poster combined all the elements of a genuine poster—concise statement, striking optical effect, drawing confined to essentials, broad planes of colour and integration of detail into a unified whole… A feature of his work, which derives especially from English models, is a simplicity amounting at times to almost parsimony. But his posters are agog with life, sometimes with buffoonery, sometimes with mordant wit” (Rademacher, p. 16). To boot, Heine defied all of the aesthetic conventions of Jugendstil, instead launching a new style of poster design that would lead to the Sachplakat era. He was right to take the risk—the bulldog has become an icon of not only the magazine, but of an entire era of German poster design. This is a 1965 limited edition reprint of the original 1897 poster, issued by Verlag der Kunst Dresden.
33 x 43 1/2 in./83.7 x 110.5 cm
One of the most iconic posters of all time, Livemont’s design for Absinthe Robette perfectly captures the spirit of Art Nouveau. Every element of the image is lavishly decorative yet delicately organic. Holding up her glass with the reverence of a holy relic, we do not see the hand that pours the water over the sugar, adding a mystical, otherworldly quality to the concoction. The background is made up of sensual plumes of mint on green, echoing the milky swirl within the cup.
13 1/2 x 28 in./34.3 x 71.2 cm
“This poster is sharply divided into two halves, the bottom part devoted to the baby and the sales message, the top half providing a semi-circular mosaic background for the lovely mother. Note the use of the mother birds feeding their young in the decorative corners at top” (Rennert/Weill, p. 124). Rare!
38 3/8 x 55 3/4 in./97.5 x 140.6 cm
Steinlen adapted his Lait pur Stérilisé for Nestlé’s Swiss Milk, which is “Richest in Cream.” How did that version come about? A speculative scenario: the original version had been printed in February 1894 by Verneau. The British manufacturer and poster promoter Bella was in Paris that spring to gather posters for his upcoming exhibition at the Royal Aquarium in London that October. He was so impressed with the design that he bought the copyright for the British market from Verneau and announced in his catalogue, under the listing of that poster solely, “This copyright is for sale.” In walks the head of Nestlé, who is equally impressed, and bargains with Mr. Bella to reproduce it, reportedly in an edition of 10,000 copies in the smaller format. Charles Hiatt, in October 1895, reproduced that version, without text, in his noted book. This particular printing, however, is a completely different production meant to advertise the lithographic skill of the printers rather than promoting milk to consumers. At the top, G. Gerin Fils have provided instructions to adapt the poster for commercial use: “Just cover these letters with the slip Nestlé.” This is the only known copy of this design.
53 x 37 1/8 in./134.5 x 94.2 cm
“A saleswoman at the Place Clichy White Sale shows a discerning customer some fine bed linens. Thiriet makes the women’s appearances and attitudes so charming and gives the sheets themselves such sumptuous volumes that purchasing what is essentially a household requirement seems as delightful as choosing a new dress” (Gold, p. 18). Crauzat, announcing its publication in L’Estampe et l’Affiche, calls it “a beautiful design with pleasing colors. We hope that it will be followed by many more [from the artist]” (1898, p. 43). Pleasing colors might be an understatement in this case—this poster boasts incredibly vivid colors: tangerine lettering and accents, burgundy and turquoise apparel, and the strangest—but most delightful—magenta and scarlet hair.
18 3/4 x 25 3/8 in./47.5 x 64.5 cm
This poster announces Lautrec’s “Elles” collection, his famous brothel series, an edition of lithographs depicting prostitutes simply referred to as “Elles” (Them). This ambiguous title both recalls the common phrase ces dames (these ladies), and at the same time is the pronoun indicating all females. Although the women of the “Elles” series are prostitutes, they appear desexualized, shown in postures that emphasize the everyday and unglamorous nature of their occupation. In this instance, putting her hair back up after finishing with a client; the only indication that a man is even in the room is his top hat resting gingerly on her bed. It was the pictorial epilogue to what the artist had experienced in the maisons closes of the rue des Moulins, the rue d’Amboise, and the rue Joubert. “They” are “women to my liking,” as he used to say, and he often lived with them for weeks at a time during the years 1892 to 1895, a constant witness of their daily lives, of their suffering and intimacy.
In-gallery viewing Oct. 30 – Nov. 14 (daily 11am-6pm)