Monday, May 24, 2010

Paris Posters: Story of a Bygone Era

Posters as a mass produced art form are a contribution of Paris, the capital of France. Starting from the mid to late 19th century, poster printing became a craze in Paris. Everybody who was somebody wanted a poster about themselves or their performances; they wanted the best artists of Paris to decorate the city streets with their posters. Pencil artist and screen decorator Jules Chéret started an office in Paris in 1866 with the sole objective of developing custom poster printing. Chéret popularized the creation of colorful, timeless posters in Paris. His posters were vibrant with color, thanks to a new lithographic technique that he had developed. He created over 1,000 posters for Parisian exhibitions, events, and musicals, and is often considered the father of modern posters.

Other notable poster artists of the day were Alfons Mucha, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Firmin Bouisset. All of these artists contributed to the development of poster printing techniques, and made posters widely popular in Paris. Around this time, Toulouse-Lautrec and Chéret started depicting females on their posters in various attractive and sensual poses. Many of these posters became fashion statements for city streets, spawning the phrase "art galleries of the street." Posters became so popular that an exhibition of posters was held in Paris in 1884, the first of its kind in the world.

Even today, some of the old posters created by Parisian artists survive in museums around the world. "Moulin Rouge-La Goulue," a poster created by Toulouse-Lautrec in 1881 depicting the famous Moulin Rouge of Paris, is an icon of the era. Another collectible poster is a creation by Jules Chéret. Called the Vin Mariani, this 1894 advertisement poster colorfully advertises the digestif, a tonic wine that used coca from the jungles of Brazil, then a newly imported, exotic drink in Europe.
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