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.
A trapeze couldn’t fly as far and wide on a music-hall stage as it could in a circus, but a talented artist can find other ways to make the act more daring. Here, Miss Lala (full name Lala Kaira) wears a fetching polka-dot costume while holding an exploding cannon by a chain in her mouth as she swings upside down. It’s an impressive feat, although maybe not a realistic one, and therein lies the beauty of Chéret’s imagination. Rare!
This pert young woman with the flower basket might seem an incongruous means of advertising a bookstore. She’s here, representing Ed. Sagot, because Chéret had originally drawn up the design for the department store La Belle Jardinière (The Beautiful Gardener). For whatever reason, management didn’t use the design. Ed. Sagot snapped it up for a bargain price, and used it to advertise his first poster catalogue. In fact, this 5-color poster, folded, came to subscribers with the 112-page catalogue for a total of 10 francs. It’s one of the loveliest of all Chéret posters—a sunny spirited design with the glow of youth and charm. This is a two-sheet poster.
On the first Saturday evening in 1892, the Théâtre National de l’Opéra sponsored a masked ball. The focus of Chéret’s announcement poster is an exhilarated couple—he in full-tilt boogie, she perched precariously on the balcony (the better to see and be seen, my dear). The event proved to be understandably popular, and the theater repeated it twice more in February and then again in March, using this same image all four times.
Between 1893 and 1900, Chéret created a multitude of captivating designs for the Palais de Glace, a large skating rink located on the Champs-Elysées. Here, a brightly dressed beauty balances daintily on one foot as her partner glides her around the ice. This is the larger format.
The Grévin Museum was one of the many small establishments of the late 19th century which discovered that its permanent exhibits didn’t attract enough paying customers; hence, they created events to bring in bigger crowds. The Grévin specialized in recreations of recent news events, slide shows, pantomimes, magic shows, and concerts, many of which had promotional posters designed by Chéret. This particular design was used again for the puppet show of John Hewlett (see following lot), as well as the animated pseudo-film “Pantomimes Lumineuses” (see PAI-LXIV, 207), but here is the original, very rare version for an artists’ festival.
Chéret invites us into another ethereal environment, wherein musicians and masked revelers swirl around the central Chérette in her typical yellow dress. He masterfully paints swaths of varying shades of blue to create a dreamlike background for the partygoers to celebrate in.
Chéret concocts yet another festive and dreamlike scenario using vibrant pastels. Musicians and revelers swirl in a sea of yellow and blue strewn with confetti and ribbons. It’s an utterly celebratory vision from this master of lithography and Impressionist painting.
Adorned with flowers and grinning through an Impressionistic haze, Chéret artistically interprets a trio of lovely ladies enjoying a spring outing.