December 18, 2011 § 2 Comments
Between 1868 and 1930, Parisian music publishers Hengel & Cie and G. Hartmann commissioned fifty-three opera posters, designed by some of the finest artists of the time, including Jules Chéret, Alfred Choubrac and Eugène Grasset. This exquisite series of posters has been collected for years. In 1976, Dover published a book, now quite hard to come by, explaining the fifty-three plates.
These posters were commissioned at a time when the avant garde and the establishment fought over the arts. While tremendous changes in the arts were already taking place, being experimental was still rather risqué. Some musical forms, such as music-halls, cabarets, and operettas, were trying to appeal to the growing masses and middle-class, operas remained the privilege of the aristocracy and bourgeoisie. Focusing on exoticism, ancient myths, legends and love stories of the past, they represented a rather classical and conservative position towards the arts.
The style of the French opera posters mirrors this position.
In Thais for example, Manuel Orazi chooses to imitate the shape and color of a crumbling papyrus. The use of gold inks, dear to Art Nouveau artists, along with the extremely precise details, add a precious feeling to the piece. Orazi’s depiction of the Egyptian Thais is typical of orientalism, a trend presenting the Orient as a land of treasures, mysteries, and exoticism. The story of the opera itself is rather classical, as it depicts a beautiful, “wild,” pagan woman, Thais, who converts to Christianity under the advice of a monk. As she lays ill in a convent in the desert, the monk confesses his carnal love for her, yet she resists, repents and dies a saint.
Flameng’s Griselidis also tries to imitate an older type of illustrations: medieval illuminations. The use of medieval typefaces, the depiction of the devil as a gargoyle, along with the sea and the ships in the background, contribute to create a medieval atmosphere suited to the legend of Griselda. Griselda was a lower-class, beautiful and virtuous woman, who married a marquis. Her husband, so sure of her, accepts the Devil’s proposition to test her fidelity. Here again, virtue triumphs as Griselda withstands all temptation.
Maignan’s Ariane is also emblematic of a classical art form of the time: the historical painting. Maignan was a historical painter, depicting classical scenes that would then be hung in salons. Although the frieze at the bottom of the piece is highly reminiscent of art nouveau, Ariane’s expression along with the folds of her toga recall ancient Greek statues, and conjures up the myth of Ariane. Ariane helped Theseus kill the Minotaur and escape Daedalus’ labyrinth, and then eloped with him. He then abandoned her on an island, where she was later found and wedded by the god Dionysus. The poster shows Ariane in a typical tragic posture, as Theseus’ ship sails away.
When the opera for Cendrillon (Cinderella) premiered, critics called it “a treat for the eyes.” The same can be said about this gorgeous poster by Bertrand. Although the style is definitely typical of the Art Nouveau movement, Bertrand chooses to portray Cendrillon in quite an original, unexpected way. Her dress and tiara make her look like an oriental princess, the frieze at the bottom with a detail of the shoe recalls the fairytale. The movement present throughout the piece adds to its magical, enchanting feel.
Come take a look at those rare treats in our showroom in Berkeley, at 2201 Fourth Street (corner of Allston Way). We will be open Tuesdays and Thursdays in January, and by appointment.
You can also find opera posters and more art-related pieces on our website: www.vepca.comThis post authored by VEP Intern Candie Sanderson Student at la Sorbonne Nouvelle Edited by VEP Owner Elizabeth Norris
December 16, 2010 § Leave a Comment
One of the features of many posters is ‘new’. The poster is, after all, advertising and ‘new’ or ‘new improved’ is a selling point in many company’s bag of tricks.
Part of what’s fun about looking at a collection of original vintage posters is seeing how products that we take for granted, things we can’t live without, were once novel inventions.
Lamp oil is an example of a product which was around for years, and civilized people depended on it to light their work places, their homes, the streets, their salons, restaurants and cafes. Posters for lamp oil rarely say ‘new’ instead they focus on ‘award winning’ or ‘rose tinted’ ’hygenic’ and other qualities which serve to distinguish one brand from another.
With the invention of electric light, posters for lamp oil virtually disapeared.
Mankind has always been curious, and this is what has led to our ingenuity. Staying on top of technology is, today marketed as being clever, hip even. Take at look at these posters and realize that marketing a product to the consumer as ‘au courant’ is not so new in advertising.
May 7, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Art Nouveau and Belle Epoque
The first advertising posters were created in the latter half of the 19th century by Jules Cheret (France 1836-1932). Cheret studied lithography in Britain, and then brought it back to France where he used it to create big, beautiful advertisements, a new application for this printing medium. He soon had his own printing house, Atelier Chaix, where he trained artists and draughtsman to make posters. The early posters fit into the category of Art Nouveau- a style characterized by flowing lines and ornamentation and Belle Epoque, which captured the joie de vivre of turn of the century Paris This style of poster – beautiful , sometimes whimsical, but always detailed, dominated until just after 1900.
Cappiello and the Art Deco PeriodLeonetto Cappiello (Italy 1875-1942) arrived in Paris from Italy in the late 1890’s. As a young man, he had studied fine art, but dabbled in caricatures. The techniques he learned from these quickly rendered, witty portraits prepared him to make distinctive posters. Cappiello created his first poster in 1899, and soon developed an unmistakable style. His posters feature single figures on solid color backgrounds, and they
marry image with topic seamlessly. Cappiello understood that a poster had only a second to reach out and catch your eye, and to leave a lasting impression. (See Cappiello’s “Cachou Lajaunie” and “Maurin Quina”) Because of this, he is sometimes referred to as ‘the father of modern advertising’.
Cappiello worked in the yet unnamed Art Deco Style. Art Deco dominated design and art in the 1920’s and 1930’s, but wasn’t referred to as ‘Art Deco’ until the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs held in Paris in 1925. The style used high contrast color, and from a design standpoint, elevated objects (such as radios and automobiles) to things of beauty. (See “La Bouille Soliel”, “Pelican Cigarettes”, “Porto Ramos Pinto”). These images are unforgettable, as Art Deco was first truly graphic style represented in posters.