Lush decorative designs exemplify the tenets of Art Nouveau: curvilinear forms, organic patterns, and romantic muses which celebrate beauty in its highest form. Our 84th auction includes masterful works from de Feure, Grasset, Hohlwein, Livemont, Mucha, Toulouse-Lautrec, and more.
55 x 38 3/4 in./139.8 x 98.5 cm
Known mostly for his humorous drawings, Lunel, a native of Paris, worked for numerous magazines, starting with Tout Paris. After La Vie Moderne (1879), La Vie Militaire (1883), Paris-Illustré (1884), and La Revue Illustré (1885), he worked for ten years with Le Courrier Français. His designs show up even in exotic publications such as Le Moustique in Africa and Pick Me Up in London. This excellent poster, featuring an interplanetary tandem ride, is way ahead of its time, as Maindron saw straight off: “This poster is well done; peddling with verve, on a bicycle which must be perfection itself, two riders carried away by an uncommon intensity have left the earth and find themselves in the middle of the starry sky” (p. 87). A version of the poster, with the design slightly altered and with the address at lower right, also exists (see PAI-LXXXI, 63).
38 x 54 1/4 in./96.5 x 137.7 cm
Tamagno presents a strong case for a couple’s getaway on two wheels: this stylish pair has stopped at the beach to take in the sunset over Mont-Saint-Michel. Tamagno often featured a stylish turn-of-the-century lady flippantly cruising away from her slower male admirers, but it’s nice to see his leading lady has found an equally adept companion. The text here lets us know that Terrot has received “first prizes in all the competitions.” Rare!
48 1/4 x 35 in./122.6 x 88.7 cm
The rich colors and fine design of a mother and child looking over the harbor at the Red Star Line’s Westerland ship make this a poster of enduring grace and beauty. Operating from Antwerp under the Belgian flag, the Red Star Line was a serious competitor to the Holland-Amerika Line until the Depression forced the company into bankruptcy. This boat was eventually purchased by Holland-Amerika in 1939, and continued to run the Antwerp-New York route under the Red Star name.
34 5/8 x 49 in./88 x 124.2 cm
The eye mask does nothing to conceal the charm of this lovely reveler whose dazzle throws all other participants into shadowy insignificance. Not only was this delectable design used to promote the first grand masked ball of the 1896 season, but it was also utilized to call attention to various subsequent masked balls.
11 1/2 x 16 3/8 in./29.5 x 41.6 cm
The Palais d’Eté was Brussels’ answer to Paris’s Palais de Glace—a large-scale indoor ice rink with various performances and attractions. “Burned in 1891, rebuilt in 1894, it could hold 500 people—and was later enlarged. The first floor gallery was decorated by Crespin. The celebrated Loïe Fuller performed there in 1894, and in 1897 a ‘Bioscope’ cinema sequence was the finale of the evening’s performance” (Belle Epoque 1970, p. 39). In this inviting maquette by Crespin and Duyck, there is less text than in the finalized version, allowing us to appreciate the whorls and subdued tones of the composition.
55 x 77 1/4 in./139.6 x 196.3 cm
This never-before-seen design centers on a handsomely dressed couple who appear to have been caught mid-argument. It’s a sublimely dramatic scene from this master of Italian Art Nouveau. In fact, a version of this poster before text was used to promote the 1916 silent film “Anime buie” (Dark Souls), directed by and starring Emilio Ghione alongside Hesperia (née Olga Mambelli). Ghione plays Za La Mort, a a gentleman thief who, after being released from jail, finds that two women are waiting for him; this results in much pulp crime and romantic drama. Interestingly, the film poster itself lacked an artist name or printer; we can only assume that Dudovich began with that advertisement before he turned it into a promotion for Mele. This is a two-sheet poster—and rare!
16 1/4 x 24 in./41.3 x 61 cm
The Salon des Cent (Salon of the One Hundred) was an exhibition of commercial art in Paris—one of the very first to showcase the work of contemporary graphic artists —established in 1894 by Léon Deschamps, founder of La Plume, an avant-garde literary and artistic magazine. As such, the designs advertising the exhibition almost always featured women, whether alone, lost in contemplation, reading, or in the process of creating art. De Feure’s image for the Fifth Salon is no exception. As noted by Abdy, “She is expensively and discreetly dressed” (with a fox wrap); “the face of the woman is troubled,” or at least intelligent, thoughtful, and pensive, absent-mindedly fondling a white flower as if wishing to respond to an idea, yet still composing that answer. This is the rare proof before letters.
15 x 19 1/2 in./38 x 49.5 cm
Spectacular and remarkable because of—not in spite of—its uneasy subject matter, this panel throws open a window into the world of the addicted without attempting to pretty-up or glamorize the situation in the least. In La Morphinomane (The Morphine Addict), “The girl sits forward, injecting herself in the left thigh. Her tenseness is all: the rigid posture, teeth clenched, eyes unfocused, brow furrowed, fingers gripping her thighs like claws. Except for a single upswept lock, her hair tumbles down like a monstrous octopus, framing and emphasizing the pale, drawn features. The lithograph, hand-coloured, is Grasset’s most expressive image, eschewing facility to emphasize the absolute horror which is, somehow, made even more effective by the decorative touches: the flash of gartered stocking, the richness of the colouring” (Berthon & Grasset, p. 64). This is a hand-signed artist proof.
45 x 61 in./114.5 x 155 cm
Grün employs a bit of Middle Eastern exoticism in this large maquette for an unrealized poster. Against a starry sky, a sip of Menthe Pastille is offered to an older man, who appears to be intoxicated by its flavor. Despite not creating a finalized poster, all the elements of a fine Grün design are in place: a seductive female figure, a comedically entranced male, and high-contrast colors. “[The] use of black is a true graphical invention and is at once linked to its creator—one could refer to a ‘black background à la Grün’” (Grün, p. 12).
12 3/4 x 26 3/4 in./32.4 x 68 cm
For one of the most beloved Champagne houses in France, Hingre fuses the motifs of Mucha with the poses of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, and produces a work that perfectly balances lightness, strength, structure, and opulence. It’s a rather fine translation of the Champagne itself into visual form. This is the rare smaller format.
29 3/8 x 40 7/8 in./74.6 x 104 cm
Hohlwein’s plump gourmand is on the verge of childlike jubilation. He is so overjoyed with the arrival of not one, but three varieties of Stuhr’s caviar that he can’t help but giggle like a schoolgirl and rub his well-rounded tummy in anticipation. The scene is such a delight that one can’t help but get swept along with its infectious ebullience, regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of the salty sturgeon treat. Rare!
31 x 42 3/8 in./78.8 x 107.8 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.
30 5/8 x 24 1/8 in./80 x 61.2 cm
“As a poster designer, Meunier knew how to organize well-observed detail to create an almost musical ambiance… [with] compositions that are gravely meditative, clean and synthetic. The artist’s interest focused on bringing out opposing light and dark values within his often large, contained, flowing masses of color to support the force and veracity of his concepts” (Belle Epoque 1970, p. 68). This design for Rajah coffee is a classic of Belgian Art Nouveau poster art; it was called Meunier’s “best work” and “a masterpiece” by L’Estampe et L’Affiche in 1898 (p. 227). Appropriately, a strong coffee tone dominates the scene.
39 x 56 1/2 in./99 x 143.5 cm
“It is clear that Mucha understood well the principles of selling not the object itself, but the feeling that is associated with it. Here, he is barely showing a piece of the bicycle… but as to the pleasure of riding, this sylph has it all over any dreary mechanical details. Airily she caresses the machine, her windblown hair embodying motion and a restless spirit, a vision of idle loveliness and a perfect Mucha maiden. Her gaze at us is straight and direct, not flirtatious but inviting and challenging, daring us to take her on in a race… Mucha finally had a perfect subject that justified hair in motion, and he took full advantage of it, giving her the most dizzying configurations of his famous ‘macaroni’ [hair]. The Perfecta was an English brand bicycle, which makes this one of the very few Mucha posters for an English client. It was also sold in France” (Rennert/Weill, p. 294). This is the larger format.
39 1/4 x 55 in./99.6 x 139.8 cm
For Le Furet corsets, Robbe gives us a wistfully intimate portrait of a woman at her vanity, exquisitely detailed and frosted with the romance of midsummer hues. It’s a gorgeous design, from the silver-topped crystal jars on the dressing table to the unaffected demeanor of his primper. Robbe was known mainly for producing a great many decorative prints in a bold, robust style. His posters are rare, and show an incredible flair for compositions and use of simple colors.
15 x 19 3/4 in./38 x 50.2 cm
This is the very first limited edition print by Lautrec, one of 100 signed and numbered copies, with Ancourt’s stamp. It was published “by the art-dealers Boussod, Valadon et Cie., where Lautrec’s old friend and later biographer, Maurice Joyant, was manager. The print was offered for sale in October 1892 for 20 francs… As early as July the artist claimed to be so far highly satisfied with the results of his experiments in the field of colour lithography: ‘My little efforts have turned out perfectly and I’ve caught onto something which can lead me quite far—so I hope” (Adriani, p. 28). Shown entering the Moulin Rouge is La Goulue (Louise Weber, 1870-1929), and as opposed to her audacious cancan in the prior year’s Moulin Rouge poster, she is demurely entering the music hall with her trademark chignon piled high on top of her head. Much as he did with Aristide Bruant, Lautrec shows us La Goulue from behind and the effect in both cases is to strengthen the position and personality of the performer—so well-known, so self-assured that they can show us their backs and get away with it. It’s a rare and exquisite print.