Jules Chéret (1836-1932) was the first master of Belle Époque poster art. After training in lithography in England, he became one of the first champions of new color lithographic methods. Taking after French rococo masters Fragonard and Watteau, frothy visions of young women in frivolity became his signature. He was awarded the Legion of Honor in 1890, and initiated the Maîtres d’Affiche collection in 1895.
Although exotic animal acts seem to belong more properly in the circus than in the music hall, records show that these popular stages hosted menageries to rival Noah’s. Along with the expected lions and tigers, audiences could see trained elephants, bears, monkeys, cats, dogs, rats, seals, and pigeons. Here, Chéret surrounds a hefty snake charmer with her serpentine charges and letters that wriggle as well.
In this design for the lamp oil company Saxoléine, Chéret portrays one of his favorite redhead ladies in a bright yellow dress. This is the larger format.
This image was used during the 1897-1898 season at the Théâtre de l’Opéra. This particular variant announces the third masked gala, including a “cortège du bœuf gras”—an annual procession, usually during Carnival, organized by the guilds of butchers to award a top ox or bull.
The message in Chéret’s delicately handled design is clear: if you use Iris Villa fragrances, you will feel as if you are carrying an armful of flowers.
This intimate study shows Chéret’s aptitude for shade, color, and light—notice the delicate folds of the woman’s jacket which are gently lit by the sun. This painting has been authenticated by Maitre Blanchet and will appear in a forthcoming catalogue raisonné.
This tender portrait proves that Chéret can depict a moment of quiet solitude just as superbly as his more ebullient imagery.
In-gallery viewing February 24-March 25 (11am-6pm daily)