L’affichomanie/poster mania reached a climax in Belle Epoque Paris in the 1890’s, and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec was the most famous poster artist of them all. Singer and songwriter Aristide Bruant sang in Le Chat Noir cabaret about life on the outer fringes of Paris, and Toulouse-Lautrec’s popular posters of him made the performer recognizable on the street, sporting his signature red scarf.
A burgeoning merchant class became so enamored of this street art that they began bribing the poster hangers to sell them the works directly. Others resorted to stealing freshly hung works. Residents decorated their homes with them and hosted “poster parties”, with the cocktail conversation centered around the latest art on the streets of Paris, of course.
Alphonse Mucha’s brilliant 1894 Art Nouveau poster called Gismonda (sorry, couldn’t snap that pic) for another American actress, Sarah Bernhardt, signaled a new era in poster design featuring flowing lines and organic subject, plus freedom from the restrictions of classical art. A bicycle craze in Paris coincided with the poster mania, and this piece by Mucha represents both newly discovered freedoms.
Pierre Bonnard created this breakout poster for the France Champagne company in 1889, although it would not be displayed for another two years, the same year Lautrec created his own work, Moulin Rouge. More interestingly, it was Bonnard who had earlier introduced Lautrec to the printer who would later print the Moulin Rouge poster. The bubbly certainly is flowing…
Marc Auguste Bastard created this ad in 1896 for a French beer maker (and we thought the French only drink wine). I appreciate the use of symbolism instead of featuring a product image, and of course the image of lovely lady certainly helps.
This poster, circa 1906, by Leonetto Cappiello evokes an image la fée vert, or the green fairy, the nickname for that mind bending drink, Absinthe, popular during the Belle Epoque, but recently reborn as something less potent. However, this is actually an ad for an alcoholic beverage called Quina, with the brand name Maurin, that was also banned in France. Apparently, it too has been re-introduced in both France and the US. Sounds devilish, doesn’t it! Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
Do you think any of today’s popular adverts will be remembered so fondly?