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
July 13, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Our 12th Annual Preview Show this year at Fort Mason will offer a taste of Fin du Siecle Paris, the time into which the poster was born. Why is this time period so interesting? Of course, the costumes were fabulous, but the expanseof the culture was the real news, and the poster was an expression of it.
Because of the the world’s fairs of 1889 and 1900, the blend of world cultures in France was intoxicating. But what really propelled the culture to express itself so vividly had to do with the birth of the middle class.
The invention of the gas powered motor was a breakthrough that improved agriculture immeasurably. It allowed farmers to produce a surplus of grain, of grapes, of whatever they grew. Then, there was an immediate need. If you can produce a surplus, how do you sell it? There you have the need for the poster.
Once the poster developed markets for products, the merchant class grew. These people sold goods and consumed media and products previously reserved for the wealthy such as literature, plays and operas, which in turn fueled demand for posters to advertise these pastimes.
Very quickly, posters moved from a smattering to a torrent. The demand for products and experiences increased dramatically, and the marketing of those same things grew as well until in 1900 there were 8 major print house in Paris creating posters around the clock, and printing overruns as well, to meet the demand of the seemingly insatiable poster collecting public.
The collectors were savvy. The average french collector in 1900 had 1,000+ posters in their cache. Today, I work to find those old colections, in piece or whole. join us at Fort mason this year, and you will catch the bug….
VEP’s 12th Annual Preview Show features our collection of 1000+ original adverting posters PLUS new aquisitions from our buying trip to France. August 19-22, 2010 Friday and Saturday from 10-6, Sunday from 11-5
Fort Mason Center is located at the Corner of Marina and Buchanan Streets in San Francisco.
The show is sponsored by Connoisseurs Guide to California Wine http://www.wineaccess.com/expert/connoisseurs/index.html