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In the 1920s and ’30s, culture and design aesthetics changed around the world. The first World War had ended; the stock market boomed; cabaret culture and jazz music proliferated. Art Deco artists responded to this renewed sense of possibility and freedom by embracing experimentation, bold forms, geometry, and avant-garde typography. Our 90th auction presents Art Deco works from the leaders of the genre: Broders, Cappiello, Cassandre, Colin, Loupot, and more.
This is the stunning poster for the first episode of Louis Feuillade’s revolutionary film, “Fantômas,” starring René Navarre. This role as a master criminal would become Navarre’s most famous character. “On the eve of the 1914 war, the appearance of ‘Fantômas’ de Feuillade marked the beginning of a new era. A new romanticism, that of logic pushed to the extreme, of unreal logic, was born. Fantômas, the man in the black hood, the genius of crime and the master of terror, fought by Inspector Juve and the journalist Fandor, extending his evil shadow over Paris… has inspired generations of readers and moviegoers. [Authors] Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre have imagined the most surprising adventures, the most unexpected twists, the most monstrous plots, the most surprising murders… all in a great breath of poetry and freedom which appealed to both the popular readers and the Surrealists” (Memoire du Cinema, p. 66-67). This three-sheet poster is especially rare!
By William H. Barribal (1873-1956)
Whether you view this scene as the isle of empowered women or a lure for single male travelers, one thing is certain: this poster is an utter charmer. The women have donned their Jazz Age beach finery and have taken to the sea with such enthusiasm that viewers must have felt compelled to board the next LNER train to Bridlington straight away. Barribal was a commercial artist who worked for Schweppes and Vogue; his wife, Gertrude Louisa Fannie Pitt, served as his model for many designs, including this one. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the women share common facial characteristics—all borrowed from Gertrude.
By Robert Bonfils (1886-1972)
Here is where Art Deco was made: in the iconic fusion of primitive woodblock and avant-garde typography. The Paris Exposition was originally planned for 1915; World War I had other plans. In the decade of its postponement, a new style to define the 20th century had emerged—synthesizing angular simplicity with the romantic pastoral. It needed a name. “Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes” had too many syllables. Abbreviated, “Art Deco” became a popular aesthetic of worldwide modernity. This is the smaller format.
By Roger Broders (1883-1953)
This PLM poster features stylish vacationers enjoying a sunny terrace in the Alpes-Maritimes resort of Grasse, which overlooks the Côte d’Azur. The Old City rises behind like a man-made mountain, crowned by the ancient cathedral. Delicate coloring evokes the delicious mixture of southern warmth and the chill of the mountains in a place described as “the village of flowers and perfume.”
By Leonetto Cappiello (1875-1942)
“Campari comes in two versions, the red Bitter and the white Cordial; here’s Cappiello’s graphic solution to promoting separate yet equal cocktail refreshments” (Cappiello/Rennert, p. 215). This is a two-sheet poster.
By A. M. Cassandre (Adolphe Mouron, 1901-1968)
In this magnificent poster, Cassandre perfectly portrays the two most important factors in early rail travel: romance and speed. Our eyes are both focused on the geometric whirl of the wheels and the seemingly endless far-off horizon. The size and power of the engine is so brilliantly executed that one can almost feel that solid wall of hot air hitting you as it races by.
By Paul Colin (1892-1986)
“The two pianos which André Renaud played simultaneously are thrown at us with seeming abandon, but, like all these geometric ‘tricks’ of Colin, they are very deliberately drawn for maximum effect. The effect Colin seeks here—to overwhelm us with the wizardry of Renaud—is achieved by the overwhelming size of the pianos. Renaud, who went on to become a bandleader, even played the two pianos blindfolded for a while” (Colin, p. 9).
By Fortunato Depero (1892-1960)
Fortunato Depero was a major figure in the Italian Futurist movement, and a superb noncommercial artist within that aesthetic—his work was included in the Guggenheim’s seminal 2014 survey of Italian Futurism. In 1919, he founded the House of Futurist Art, where he began to translate the artistic precepts of Futurism into household objects like toys, tapestries, and furniture. From 1928 to 1932, Depero lived in New York City, where he created stage costumes and designed restaurants, homes, and covers for magazines. This prompted his interest in commercial design, and upon his return to Italy, he created many brilliant posters, three-dimensional objects for in-store advertising (see PAI-LXXI, 280), and a 1932 bottle design for Campari soda that’s still in production. This whimsical poster for Bitter Campari is equal parts strange and delightful: a classic Depero combination.
By Hans Rudi Erdt (1883-1918)
Although no information exists on this Berlin cabaret, Erdt pulled out all of the fashionable stops to advertise the venue. The text is abstracted to the point of being nearly illegible, but the sharp details of the trio’s hats supply all of the verve we could want from an early 1900s night out.
By Charles Gesmar (1900-1928)
In this spectacular two-sheet poster, Gesmar shows the two distinct stage personas affected by Mistinguett: the flamboyant showgirl and the Parisian street urchin. She was equally effective and popular in both guises. The poster is usually referred to as “Rags to Riches,” and was the artist’s last poster for Mistinguett. This is a two-sheet poster.
By Natalia Gontcharova (1881-1962)
Gontcharova’s long and productive career spanned several countries and many styles. She could be very expressionist, or be in the midst of Futurism, or, as in this poster, at the very core of Cubism. After a successful career of painting and teaching in Russia—as well as exhibiting in all the major European avant-garde shows, including the 1911 Blaue Reiter and the 1913 Der Sturm exhibitions—she went to Paris in 1914 where she settled permanently. There she was involved in all facets of theatrical work, including designing sets for Diaghilev. Illustration also preoccupied her, but she did little in the medium of the poster. This one for the Grand Bal de Nuit at the Salle Bullier is a spectacular evocation of the Cubist style which was seldom used in posters. Whether one sees in it a couple under a tree or some other image, one gets an impression of a vivacious “happening.”
By Maurice Lauro (1878-?)
One of the finest travel posters ever created—Lauro’s Art Deco masterpiece perfects a vision of Trouville’s boardwalk as the place to see and be seen in the 1920s. With the famed Casino in the background, every detail here is perfect: from the beauty mark on the foremost flapper’s cheek, to the exaggerated hat-doffing of the gentleman, to the whiplash of two college lads, one éminence grise, and a German Shepherd—and don’t overlook the au courant stylings of the women’s footwear. All things contribute to the chic, dynamic, head-turning ambiance of France’s first resort town, a favorite of Monet, Flaubert, Proust, and Duras—now thoroughly fashioned as a place for the Great Gatsby to make an appearance. The artist, Lauro, is also known for his Le Rire caricatures and film posters.
By Charles Loupot (1892-1962)
In this 8-sheet creation—his second for the apéritif producers, and one of only three known copies in this largest format—we see the attendant pair relaxing after the completion of their shift, enjoying a nip of the beverage that they faithfully tout. Not surprisingly, opposites attract: red likes white, white likes red, and in Loupot’s talented hands, both drinks look enticing, refreshing, and delicious. “Loupot once more leaves the two garçons their two-dimensionality in order to put them in a situation, transformed into consumers of their apéritifs. The publication of this version also provided an opportunity to experiment with its posting: the photographs of the time show this poster on slight inclines on the palisades and surrounded with bands of text laid out in a very erudite way” (Loupot/Zagrodzki, p. 90). Rare!
By Charles Loupot (1892-1962)
Provenance: Estate of Charles Loupot
Selling toiletries is always a question of emotions rather than reason; hence, Loupot very adroitly supplies images of things fragrant and pleasant. This “ethereal woman-flower… is stylized in the pure spirit of Art Deco, which Loupot cherished above all else at the beginning of the 1920s” (Loupot/Zagrodzki, p. 77). This preparatory work for the poster includes Loupot’s notes for color instructions.
By Leslie Ragan (1897-1972)
“Each of [Ragan’s] railway designs, bathed in a Norman Rockwellesque light, presents a perfect beacon of homegrown industry calmly traversing the serene American landscape. Although rail service between Chicago and New York was no groundbreaking concept in 1938, that summer saw the debut of a new, streamlined style of train designed by Henry Dreyfuss. No longer a clunky piece of machinery, the new 20th Century Limited, with its clean lines and simple shape, redefined how the world looked at locomotives, leading the New York Central Railroad to dub it the ‘most famous train in the world’… The finest attention to detail was present, right down to the matchbooks available onboard. Even before one got on the train, a red carpet was rolled out to make the service feel all the more exclusive and posh. Those incidental luxuries, however, are not alluded to in this poster: the image of the engine quietly rolling by the Hudson River toward New York’s Grand Central Station is itself enough to fill the viewer with a sense of awe” (Crouse/Deco, p. 262).