The Evolution of the Vintage Poster

May 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

Musee Grevin, printed 1900

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

Cachou Lajaunie, circa 1920

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.

Pelican Cigarettes, circa 1930



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