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Art Nouveau
Hundreds of luscious designs from the Belle Époque

Lush decorative designs exemplify the tenets of Art Nouveau: curvilinear forms, organic patterns, and romantic muses which celebrate beauty in its highest form. Our 88th auction includes masterful works from Hohenstein, Livemont, Metlicovitz, Mucha, Steinlen, Toulouse-Lautrec, and more.

172. Buffalo Bill / The Last of the Great Scouts. 1905.
By Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899)
38 3/4 x 65 in./98.5 x 165 cm
Est: $14,000-$17,000

This was an 1889 painting that was reproduced as a poster to promote Buffalo Bill’s Wild West European tour in 1905. Bonheur, a much-lauded French artist, painted this portrait when Colonel Cody visited her at her chateau. This is the larger, two-sheet format with tip-ons at top and bottom—printed by Weiners in Paris—announcing two performances on Friday, June 23, 1905. And while Weiners printed the other variants of this poster, this is the rare, original Courier lithograph.

198. Job. 1896.
By Jane Atché (1880-1937)
22 3/8 x 32 1/8 in./56.8 x 81.7 cm
Est: $4,000-$5,000

This is the rare proof before letters in the smaller format. “We know just enough about Jane Atché to be intrigued. She was born in Toulouse, worked in lithographic prints—at first in black and white only, later in color—and earned an honorable mention at the Salon of the Société des Artistes Français in 1902. Her scarce posters all disclose that Mucha was obviously [a strong influence]” (Wine Spectator, 101). Abdy, in fact, considers Atché one of Mucha’s two best followers in France (p. 100). Of her half dozen known posters, this one for the cigarette paper firm is her most spectacular. We get the lyricism of Art Nouveau in the handling of the green dress and the smoke, combined with a compelling Lautrec-esque management of the solid black cape as it slashes through the design. On all levels, it succeeds completely.

268. Folies-Bergère / La Loïe Fuller.1893.
By Jules Chéret (1836-1932)
33 1/8 x 47 3/8 in./84 x 120.2 cm
Est: $5,000-$6,000

The ethereal performer Loïe Fuller commissioned and paid for many lithographic posters for her performances, and this one from Chéret lives on in infamy. The editor of The Poster wrote in 1899, “With excellent judgment she went to Chéret—Chéret the master of gorgeous and fantastic color—to herald her earlier performances in that metropolis to the gaiety of which his posters have added so materially… In his long career as an affichiste, Chéret has produced nothing more successful than his series of designs for Loïe Fuller” (Loïe Fuller/Current, p. 129).

286. La lecture au jardin : Oil Painting.
By Jules Chéret (1836-1932)
7 3/4 x 12 3/4 in./19.7 x 32.4 cm
Est: $20,000-$25,000

Provenance: The collection of M. de Mortemart, Paris

Exhibited: “L’Esprit et la grâce dans l’œuvre de Jules Chéret” at the Palais Lumière, Evian, 2008 (cat. No. 109).

Here, Chéret gives us a front-facing view of a contemplative young woman reading in the garden. It’s another more serious Impressionist work from the Belle Époque master.

303. Bonbonnière. ca. 1910.
By Ludwig Lutz Ehrenberger (1878-1950)
34 1/8 x 47 3/4 in./87 x 121.4 cm
Est: $7,000-$9,000

Ehrenberger was very active in the Munich graphic arts scene between 1905 and 1939, working for the magazine Jugend and other publications, including the Berlin-based Elegante Welt. And the elegant world is precisely where he takes us in this poster for the Bonbonnière, which is indeed advertised as “Germany’s Most Elegant Cabaret.” And the opulent decadence on display is perfectly suited to the milieu, a dismissive submergence into an availability of pleasures so intense as to leave the revelers in a joyous state of ennui. And it’s all laid out for our voyeuristic pleasure—life, after all, is a cabaret.

338. Monaco / Exposition de Canots Automobiles. 1900.
By Adolfo Hohenstein (1854-1928)
33 1/4 x 48 in./84.5 x 122 cm
Est: $10,000-$12,000

Hohenstein’s design for a motorboat exhibition and race is simple but spectacular: from aboard a boat, looking across the bows of a smart helmswoman, we see the waters off Monaco teeming with craft and sparkling in the sun. The artist returns to his trademark method for balancing the visual interest of a distant background versus a large format figure, which in this case is a charming lady: he allots most of the color to the former, and renders the latter in a few sparse lines and the brown of the paper.

339. Tosca. 1899.
By Adolfo Hohenstein (1854-1928)
52 3/4 x 112 1/2 in./134 x 285.8 cm
Est: $15,000-$20,000

This spectacular three-sheet poster depicts the dramatic climax of the opera. Scarpia, the police chief, has asked for Tosca’s love in exchange for the release of her arrested lover, Cavaradossi. She goes along with his proposal on the basis that he will forgive Cavaradossi, to which he agrees. But as soon as she receives the pardon, she stabs the police chief and places two candles beside him and a crucifix on his chest. But even so, the other guards have continued following orders to kill Tosca’s lover; she throws herself off a high wall to her death. This murky melodrama, full of high passion and double-crosses, was originally a stage play by Victorien Sardou in 1887, written expressly for Sarah Bernhardt. Why Puccini, who was known for composing lyrical, gentle music, was attracted to such a tragic piece is not clear, but his opera, which premiered in Rome on January 14, 1900, quickly became a classic—as did Hohenstein’s incredibly dramatic poster. Rare!

344. Kaffee Hag. 1913.
By Ludwig Hohlwein (1874-1949)
23 1/4 x 34 3/4 in./59 x 88.2 cm
Est: $17,000-$20,000

Who would have guessed that people who play tennis would be such a desirable demographic for coffee manufacturers during the early twentieth century? Because this racquet-toting sipper isn’t the first volleyer to come our way in the service of Kaffee Hag—two years after Hohlwein’s poster appeared, Alfred Runge and Eduard Scotland would utilize a shadowy, confrontational competitor to move the product (see PAI-LX, 472). However, the quietly composed athlete seen here in a Hohlwein masterpiece—at once delicate and powerful—would seem to be more in line with stressing that a winning attitude need not be caffeine-based, because not only is Hag delicious, it’s decaffeinated as well. The Hag water process, used in Europe by Nestlé today, produces a superior taste that no other technology has ever bettered.

360. Bitter Oriental. 1897.
By Privat Livemont (1861-1936)
33 x 43 3/4 in./83.8 x 111 cm
Est: $7,000-$9,000

“Bitter Oriental has a girl with hair meandering about in luxuriant abundance, almost in Mucha’s style. Another similarity is the circular motif in the ornamentation—and then again, there is Livemont’s characteristic white outline and distinctive lettering. The Oriental bitter was basically gin with a flavoring of various herbs” (Wine Spectator, 81).

374. Exposition Internationale / Milan 1906.
By Leopoldo Metlicovitz (1868-1944)
25 3/4 x 38 3/8 in./65.5 x 97.4 cm
Est: $3,000-$4,000

This was the winning entry in the contest to celebrate the opening of the Simplon Alpine tunnel in 1906, which first provided a direct link between Paris and Milan. It is one of Metlicovitz’s most famous and inspired designs; the red of the engine’s light emphasizes the movement of the train out of the tunnel. This is the rare larger format variant with text in French and the official Ministry of Commerce inaugural invitation in gold ink.

403. Exposition de St. Louis. 1903.
By Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939)
28 3/4 x 40 1/2 in./73 x 103 cm
Est: $25,000-$30,000

“The Mucha maiden holding hands with the Indian chief advertises the 1904 World’s Fair at St. Louis, Missouri, and invites the French traveler to take a journey involving six days by steamer and one day by train… The theme of the fair was science and industry, as shown in the circle at right. The star in it represents the rather unusual first day of the Fair, which demonstrated the sensitivity and scientific value of a rather new discovery of the time, the photocell. A photocell at the bottom of a long tube was aimed at a spot in the heavens where a bright star—Arcturus—would appear at the exact opening hour of the Fair. As the star’s light reached the photocell at the precise moment, it activated a switch which lit all the lights in the fair grounds” (Rennert/Weill, p. 310). Note the interesting marketing approach for this World’s Fair: in a typically American bent, size comparisons are listed for prior fairs in Philadelphia, Paris, and Chicago. This fair has the largest amount of real estate—in fact, twice the size of the 1893 Chicago show. For an official poster Proclamation for this event, see PAI-L, 111.

416. Darmstadt. 1901.
By Joseph Maria Olbrich (1867-1908)
18 3/4 x 32 in./47.5 x 81.2 cm
Est: $14,000-$17,000

When Olbrich co-founded the Vienna Secession group in 1897 with Klimt, Hoffman, Wagner, and Moser, his main contribution was to design the group’s exhibition building, known as the Secession Hall. It became such a well-known monument that two years later, he was called on by the Grand Duke of Hesse to create other exhibition buildings for the newly formed Darmstadt Artists’ Colony. This poster is for their first exhibition, and features an intricate rendering of the Ernst Ludwig House, also designed by Olbrich, in the background. Rare!

434. Café Lurion. 1903.
By Emil Ranzenhofer (1864-1930)
36 1/4 x 49 7/8 in./92.2 x 126.7 cm
Est: $3,000-$4,000

On December 25, 1903, Maxime Lurion opened her Café Lurion, a coffee house to rival all other Viennese coffee houses—a tall order that she easily surpassed. The exquisitely decorated café not only boasted wonderful coffee and lounge areas, but a game room, an American bar, a bowling alley, and a winter garden that doubled as a concert hall. The Neues Wiener Tagblatt reported: “[The] coffee house… furnished with exquisite taste, elegance and dignified luxury, is a grand attraction of Vienna’s local art and industry; Viennese painters, sculptors, architects and arts and crafts enthusiasts were brought in to create a jewel case that not only adorns our city, but which every Viennese can look at with pride… Vienna has many fine coffee houses, but… Café Lurion has beaten an unmatched record” (Tagebuch der Strasse, p. 95). And Ranzenhofer’s stylish lady definitely sets the tone for the Café Lurion experience. Rare!

435. The Century / Midsummer Holiday Number. 1894.
By Louis J. Rhead (1858-1926)
19 x 14 in./48.3 x 35.5 cm
Est: $2,500-$3,000

Rhead artfully captures Art Nouveau ambiance for The Century by echoing the woman’s auburn tresses in the orange trumpets and roses which surround her, and then reflecting the wave of her hair in the lines of the stylized sky. Rhead was one of the first poster artists to gain an international reputation. He was heavily influenced by Grasset, who he admired and met while in Paris.

442. Spratt's Patent Ltd. ca. 1909.
By Auguste Roubille (1872-1955)
44 1/2 x 62 3/8 in./113 x 158.5 cm
Est: $10,000-$12,000

Spratt’s was a major British pet food producer with branches in several countries (their U.S. factory was located in Newark, NJ). Here, the French branch advertises with a poster stressing dog food. “Roubille uses a restrained yet warm style to show a happy mistress dispensing Spratt’s treats to her clamoring canines” (Gold, p. 14). It’s surely one of the finest animal-centered images in the poster medium.

457. Chat Noir. 1896.
By Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen (1859-1923)
38 1/8 x 55 1/4 in./96.8 x 140.2 cm
Est: $20,000-$25,000

This is one of only three known copies of this variant of the Chat Noir with hand-stenciled text in Russian. It advertises the reopening of the café on October 3, 1896, and the start of its shows three days later. It was at the Chat Noir where “Henri [Toulouse-Lautrec] had discovered a stocky, handsome, foul-mouthed character, a master of the chanson-realiste by the name of Aristide Bruant. Henri sat happily through Bruant’s act night after night after night, listening to gritty ballads that ignored the idealised world of brightly-lit dance halls and sun-dappled boating parties so beloved of Henri’s colleagues” (Sweetman, p. 128). This is “Steinlen’s most famous cat poster… The cat is sinister, a warlock’s cat. On the halo around its head is written ‘Mon Joye, Montmartre’” (Abdy, p. 96). It is not clear if there was a sufficient expatriate Russian community to warrant this special version. Rare!

478. Aristide Bruant Dans Son Cabaret. 1893.
By Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)
37 3/8 x 54 in./95 x 137 cm
Est: $40,000-$50,000

Bruant’s strong, forceful, and in many ways vulgar style was ideally suited to the intimate cabarets where fashionable society went “slumming” for thrills. Lautrec captures this brutal quality of the entertainer and the disdain with which he treated his audiences by having him show us the broad of his back. The red scarf forms an exclamation point that punctuates the black expanse while the pose itself makes a complete, self-contained statement—Toulouse-Lautrec at his very best. This is the rare proof before the addition of letters.

500. L’Anti-Bélier / A Cruchon. 1899.
By Jacques Villon (1875-1963)
16 3/4 x 23 1/4 in./42.5 x 59 cm
Est: $15,000-$20,000

Both an important figure in the history of Modern art as well as a staple of bohemian society at the turn of the century, Villon dabbled in everything from Cubism to illustration to printmaking. Creating only about six posters in his lifetime, they stand out from the rest of his oeuvre, showcasing a graceful drawing style and a sensitive expression of character. In this exceptionally rare image by the artist, we catch an auburn-haired sophisticate in the midst of primping herself. Seated before her morning toilet, she is putting on the finishing touches to her look before facing the world. Despite all this detail, the actual product being advertised remains a mystery—the term “anti-bélier” has no known meaning that would match the image (today, it is used to describe a very specific type of plumbing). This leaves us to speculate that it is either a hair detangler (“bélier” is a wool-bearing mammal, similar to a sheep, which was often compared to unruly hair), or possibly even the atomizer before her (the word “atomizer” did not yet exist, but, as mentioned, the term used here is a type of pump). Despite the ambiguous product, the poster itself is simply exquisite, and a gorgeous homage to beauty for beauty’s sake.

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