Surely some of the best and most fun posters of the Belle Époque are by Grün. His theme is usually the charming women from Montmartre—playful, lusty, well-endowed—and typically being pursued by leering men. All this is accomplished with a minimum of color—red and black are his favorites—and a maximum of wit. In fact, in an interview featured in the March 1899 edition of The Poster, Grün summed up his graphic goals as follows: “Since , I believe that I have done about fifteen [posters], in which I have tried to find new and simple effects. Two or three colors are quite sufficient to produce something interesting. Black and white, with a touch of red or green… As for my subjects, I search for them always in the same places: in the theatres or café-concerts, for which I have done all my affiches” (p. 100).
Excelsior was a daily illustrated publication that, according to this poster, cost its readership absolutely nothing, as the subscription fee was far less than the myriad savings they would receive from the in-issue discounts. In this rare Grün design, a savvy family turns over pocket change for a copy, while an avalanche of goods tumbles toward them.
“On July 14, 1898, La Cigale stages a new revue by Fursy, once again with the hilarious Jeanne Bloch. Its composition is fairly close to ‘Allo! Allo!,’ saturated with a wealth of different and colorfully costumed characters. Faced with its phenomenal success the management asks Grün to create a poster for the one hundredth performance. In his memoirs, Fursy recalls: ‘A superb poster by Grün celebrated my 100th representation on October 8th.’ De Crauzat, writing in l’Estampe et l’Affiche, wonders: ‘Won’t Bérenger (the stuffy senator nicknamed Father Prude) be a bit shocked? Never mind, the League for Morality can no longer recover its expenses!’ Nonetheless there was food for thought: A buxom Grünette exposes her bare breasts to collect ballots. The first ballot is presented by the unshakable uncle, Francisque Sarcey, followed by a stream of voters, all volunteers for this subtle image of the ‘cravate de notaire.’ On the left a bouquet of flowers advocates a 150th showing. If Fursy is to be believed it did play close to 200 times—a phenomenal success at the time—and the poster was never censored” (Grün, p. 48).
Located in the northwest of France, Le Mesnil-au-Val is known for the dramatic landscape of its rocky beaches. In this rarely seen design by Grün, a sweet little dog gazes at the viewer while perched atop the backside of a curvy brunette. Beyond, bathers undress for a sunset dip in one of the many tidal pools along the shore.
“Trouville, like its rival-neighbor Deauville, was one of the chic resorts where the Paris crowd spent the summer season—enough so to justify the presence of a piano rental company to outfit musical evenings. The soirée drawn by Grün seems to be especially merry with a radiant lady seated at the piano (maybe his wife) since Grün includes himself (recognizable by his baldness) emerging from the black background. Sem the artist, illustrator of the Deauville society is next to him. The attendance of the young black boy, well liked by Grün in his posters… seems a bit odd in such surroundings” (Grün, p. 113).
Originally created for the reopening of the Casino de Paris, this variant of the design does not feature that additional text, instead simply showcasing one of Grün’s beautiful soubrettes as the eye candy for a host of male audience members.
In one of Grün’s rarest and most glorious designs, we see an overjoyed female spectator clad in sunshine yellow wave her lace handkerchief at the competing motor boats below. The perspective and composition of this poster outdoes almost everything else Grün produced—it is as close to lithographic perfection as one can achieve.
In 1903, Gustave Gobron severed his partnership with Eugène Brillié and began manufacturing automobiles under his own name; Brillié went on to build trucks. This 1911 poster, though rendered with a great deal of artistic license, shows an early closed auto in which a limousine top was simply fixed to the top of an open car. Grün gives us a bright yellow Gobron sedan with happy travelers soaring into the blue sky. Unfortunately, Gobron went out of business with the stock market crash.