Lush decorative designs exemplify the tenets of Art Nouveau: curvilinear forms, organic patterns, and romantic muses which celebrate beauty in its highest form. Our 83rd auction includes masterful works from Chéret, Livemont, Mucha, Steinlen, Toulouse-Lautrec, Villon, and more.
17 5/8 x 23 3/4 in./44.7 x 60.5 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.
34 1/2 x 49 1/8 in./87.7 x 125 cm
This is one of at least two designs Chéret created for Loïe Fuller; here, he idyllically captures her exceptionally modern dance routine on paper. In her act, she would wave reams of diaphanous fabric around her body, dozens of colored lights flashing upon her as she moved. She was considered the perfect blend of human and machine, so much so that many art historians mark the beginning of the Modern period with her first performance.
32 x 25 in./81.3 x 63.6 cm
This is possibly the rarest and definitely the most fully expressive of the few posters by this noted symbolist painter and occasional graphic designer—this variant is even more special, as it predates versions with letters included. “The lady pointing to one of the items available from print and poster dealer Pierrefort is one of de Feure’s most enigmatic women: her face is alluring yet inscrutable, with a touch of slyness or private amusement: Is she mocking us, or simply being ambiguous?” (Wine Spectator, p. 89). Millman calls this “his most Japanese-influenced poster” (de Feure, p. 76). Pierrefort, along with Sagot and Arnould, was one of the most important poster and print dealers of Paris in the 1890s who often befriended promising graphic artists whose work he savored. Three of these protégés created posters for his gallery: Henri-Gabriel Ibels (see PAI-LII, 245), P. H. Lobel (see PAI-IX, 336), and de Feure. Pierrefort was especially close to Toulouse-Lautrec, whose work he published and exhibited toward the end of the painter’s short career.
31 7/8 x 43 in./81 x 109 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.
19 1/4 x 25 3/4 in./48.8 x 65.3 cm
“This is one of Mucha’s best and most frequently reprinted designs. For many years, it was known as Reverie, the name given to the decorative panel widely sold by La Plume without the lettering,” as shown here. It was used originally as a promotion for the printer, Champenois. “The design shows one of Mucha’s most captivating maidens leafing through what may be a sample book of the printer’s designs. The circular decorative halo behind her is one of the most elaborate ones Mucha ever used, as well as one of the largest in terms of its relation to the size of the picture” (Rennert/Weill, p. 160).
11 7/8 x 17 3/4 in./30.2 x 45 cm
“Of this whole series, the May poster, of the girl with the two Angora cats has, perhaps, the greatest and most lasting charm. Its quaint originality and the absolute informality of its subject and the extraordinary simplicity of its treatment makes it a poster that one remembers for years after it has been put away” (Price, p. 235-36).
38 1/8 x 53 1/2 in./96.8 x 135.8 cm
All the warmth, humanity, and affection for which Steinlen is so loved comes through gloriously in this poster for the newly marketed “lait stérilisé” that was touted over the “lait ordinaire” at that time. Charles Knowles Bolton, writing a year after its publication, proclaimed that this “is perhaps the most attractive poster ever made. No man with half a heart could fail to fall in love with the child.” Louis Rhead himself commented: “When I saw it in Paris last year… it seemed to me the best and brightest form of advertising that had appeared.”
52 1/8 x 36 3/8 in./132.5 x 92.3 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.
36 1/4 x 51 in./92 x 129.5 cm
“This official poster for La Revue Blanche is considered by many to be Lautrec’s strongest individual work. In it, using a combination of economical line and implied movement, large flat areas of color and carefully observed detail, he shows Misia Natanson, wife of the magazine’s editor, Thadée Natanson, ice-skating at the Palais de Glace, an ice rink opened at the Rond-Point des Champs-Élysées by Jules Roques in 1894. The entire poster is like a little joke, as if Lautrec were amusing himself by proving that he could show an ice-skater without ever showing her skates” (Frey, p. 408).
30 3/4 x 40 7/8 in./78.3 x 104 cm
Toussaint created posters as well as portraits—and this is decidedly his best one. The design’s rich colors and strong contrasts do for coffee what Mucha’s tousled hair did for cigarette rolling papers. Barely touching her cup and saucer, the serene woman stares curiously at the steaming beverage. Her dress curls into the walls, her hair into the lettering, creating an overall sense of warmth and dreaminess. Hats—outlandish or merely fashionable—feature prominently in all his paintings.
35 3/4 x 51 5/8 in./90.8 x 131 cm
Villon’s celebrated design promotes Guinguette Fleurie—noted below as “The Flower of the Singer-Poets”—at the Manège Central, a Montmartre music hall that was formerly a riding school. Villon was an important figure in the history of Modern art and a quintessential figure in the bohemian scene of Fin-de-Siècle Paris. A Cubist painter, illustrator, and filmmaker, he created only six posters—all graced by his superb drawing skills and observation of character. We fancy that the small bearded figure in the distant background of this poster is a self-caricature.