Air France: French West Africa and Extrême Orient

August 14, 2016 § Leave a comment

After World War Two commercial air travel was, for the first time accessible to the public. Wartime technological advancements including radar and improvements in engineering led to faster, safer, and larger planes. An adventurous traveler could now leave their continent and in less than a day find themselves on the other side of the globe. Travel posters, always a tool of mass communication, showed exotic destinations as a means of announcing, “The world is now open to all.” Air France, one of the preeminent airlines both before and after WWII, employed the poster expertly. Their routes traced a history of commerce and many were carved out through colonialism. It is interesting to look at Air France’s choices of which destinations to promote to tourists in their advertising posters and also to examine the images used to evoke adventure, exoticism and ownership.

Although the war afforded advancements in technology and global economics, other institutions, like colonialism, persisted. Many European countries held stake in colonies thousands of miles apart. The British Empire’s holdings in India, the Middle East, and East Africa are often at the forefront of people’s minds, however, France and even smaller nations like Belgium and Portugal were key colonial players. France held power in North and West Africa as well as Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and the Caribbean.


Of the Allied powers, the French suffered particular hardship during WWII. As a Nazi occupied nation and one situated on the front lines, France’s infrastructure and economy were decimated by the end of war. Despite this, companies like Air France thrived in the new postwar environment. Flights around France, Europe, and the French colonies in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean became increasingly popular. France’s colonial presences in West Africa and the Far East or L’Extrême Orient, especially Vietnam, made travel to these locations seem exotic yet possible. Posters, like the ones below, were created to market these destinations. The posters themselves, very similar in subject matter, speak to the ethos of the time.


The West Africa poster was created in 1949 by Albert Brenet and shows two young men in a West African pirogue with their prey. This striking image makes references to the exotic bounty of the colony and would have grabbed the attention of any passer by.


Extrême Orient by Vincent Guerra, was printed in in 1950 and features a beautiful bay and mountain scene with fishermen in their woven topped junks. The prominence of the plane shows France’s ownership of this scene as if to say “It’s ours- come explore it.” Both of these images seem to symbolize a rural, bucolic lifestyle that wasn’t quite the reality (pg. 130 Air France, The Vietnam of the 1950s was fully embroiled in a war for its independence, first from the Japanese, then the French, culminating in the Vietnam War.


West Africa suffered similar hardships at the hand of its colonial rulers. While embroiled in bureaucratic struggles for recognition by the French Government, the native peoples of these West African nations, (Sénégal, Mali, Côte D’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, French Guinea, Benin, and Niger) were treated as subjects not citizens. Independence came in March of 1962 after the bloody Algerian War.

Today the colonial references on these posters are so obvious as to be almost embarrassing to the Western viewer. But they are an indelible record of the prevailing attitudes of the time period, as are all advertising posters. It’s important that they be preserved so that their messages are not forgotten.


This post was written by Susannah Starr, Summer Intern and Elizabeth Norris, Proprietor of Vintage European Posters.

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Eugene Oge and La Menthe Pastille

August 24, 2012 § 2 Comments

The greatest thing about collecting original posters is how much we get to learn about 19th and 20th century history just by soaking up these colorful collectibles.  I recently found a Menthe Pastille poster by Eugene Oge which struck me as just such an opportunity to learn more about the period leading up to World War I. It is uncommon for a poster artisit to uses political humour in an advertising poster—politics can be too controversial, and might alienate the consumer from a brand, but in this example, Oge does a great job creating caricatures of the world’s leaders.

In 1904, Eugene Oge created the poster entitled Menthe-Pastille, which has political figures and a theme of mediation and pacification at the “Tribunal International de la Haye,” or the Hague Tribunal. Interestingly enough, Oge re-did the poster nine years later, just before the outbreak of World War I. Why did Oge do this? What were his intentions and why did he use the poster as a political tool when it was uncommon to do so?Oge’s style is expressive, detailed, and shows depth of creative persuasion. His figures show a comedic and satirical take on the problems arising in Europe during the turn of the century. One example of Oge’s satire and caricature-like execution of figures is in the 1904 poster, where Jacques Lebaudy, the “Emperor of the Sahara” peers at a globe over his large, exaggerated nose.

Original Poster by Eugene Oges

La Menthe Pastille 1904

The poster from 1904 shows a total of 13 figures, each representing something different and interacting together to show political situations in Europe. They sit at a table with a tablecloth decorated with the large text of “La Menthe-Pastille.” All the figures look as if they are in peaceful talks with each other. On the left, Oge depicts William II serving a drink to the Japanese Emperor, Matsuhito. In the foreground, the Emperor of France is being comforted about his inability to produce a male heir. The Japanese Emperor stands behind the Emperor of France, even though they are enemies, but the Emperor of France does not seem concerned. In the middle of the table, the newly chosen Catholic Pope puts his arm around King Emmanuel III of Rome. Next to King Emmanuel III on the right is Edward VII, King of the United Kingdom, who smokes and gazes at the globe that the man on his right, Jacques Lebaudy, gazes at as well. Behind those two figures is Leopold II of Belguim at an image of his “muse” Cleo de Merode. Next, to the right, is Alfonso XIII who sits regally, wearing his crown, as he recently was coronated King of Spain. Lastly, below him sits Uncle Sam with a small African American baby on his lap.

Original Poster for Le Menthe Pastille

La Menthe Pastille, 1913

In the 1913 poster, the figures are fewer, and some major players in the European situation are either out of power or not longer alive. Only 10 people now populate the poster. **Those missing are Emile Loubet, the French Emperor, and two people who had since died: Edward VII and Leopold II. The situation is much more tense here, and inflammatory situations are shown here that La Menthe-Pastille, William II tries to become allies with the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet V. In the center of the poster, the Kaiser Frederic William, plays with three small childlike figures who represent the Kings of Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece. This poster again tells people to drink La Menthe Pastille to inject tranquility and ease into their lives, but in 1913, the statement is more adamant.

From a historical perspective, these two posters offer us an extraordinary look into the problems that Europe faced just before the First World War broke out, and crisis ensued. By placing the figures where he does, he shows that the powerful countries in Europe were aligning themselves as they saw fit. Germany was allying with Austria, and France and Russia became allies as well. The situation in Europe was fragile and complex; from an advertising perspective, Oge offers the simple solution that if one were to buy the Menthe Pastille, tense situations could be resolved and diffused quite easily.


Eugene Oge: Affichiste , Anne-Claude Lelieur et Raymond Bachollet, published 1998 by Agence Culturelle de Paris. p. 214-215)

** Eugene Oge: Affichiste , Anne-Claude Lelieur et Raymond Bachollet, published 1998 by Agence Culturelle de Paris.pages 224-225)

This post was written by Karlie Drutz, San Francisco State Museum Studies Student and VEP intern and Elizabeth Norris, Owner, Vintage European Posters.

See our entire collection of original vintage posters from Europe and the United States at or visit us on Tuesdays or by appointment at our Berkeley Showroom 2201 Fourth Street in Berkeley, CA

Advertising the “Modern” Woman, A nod to Helen Gurley Brown

August 14, 2012 § 1 Comment

Something that has fascinated us recently here at Vintage European Posters is advertising’s need to be current, both of the times and ahead of the times. Graphic artists therefore must be on the cutting edge of design and modernity. They aren’t hired because they embody last year’s flavor, they’re hired because they know what’s coming next. We see this especially with posters that feature women, not just any women, but “today’s women.”

Cheret, La Diaphane, 1898

At the end of the 19th century, it was common for artists like Jules Cheret (our favorite granddaddy of vintage posters) to feature “modern” and independent women. Even the color of their hair was modern, for in 1898, when this poster was printed, women were just starting to dye their hair. Originally, red or colored hair was the mark of a fast woman, and only at the turn of the century did it become a sign of a “liberated” woman. La Diaphane features 1890’s ‘it girl’ Sarah Bernhardt endorsing rice powder .

Fournery, Cycles de Dion Bouton, 1925

A quarter of a century later, this poster advertising Cycles de Dion-Bouton shows a new modern woman, complete with a short bob hairstyle, and a skirt that scandalously falls above the ankles. She is modern, liberated, and fashionable, and she’s chosen the modern bicycle as her method of transportation.

Galli, Las Vegas, 1955

This bikini-clad bombshell in Stan Galli’s Las Vegas travel poster embodies the independent woman of the 1950’s. In what is generally considered a quite conservative decade, this modern woman is scantily clad, enjoying the “day time sun” and looking forward even more to “night time fun.”

As the 20th century came to a close, so too did the century most noted for the western woman’s liberation. From suffrage rights to Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl , no other century has seen such dramatic change in women’s lives. This last poster, designed by the prolific poster artist Rene Gruau, shows a woman not only fashionably liberated, but sexually liberated as well.


Gruau, Moulin Rouge, 1980

It is perhaps the advertising poster, more so than any other popular art form, that can illustrate what is au courant, from must have modern appliances to modern fashion, from modern automobiles to the modern, liberated women.





Written by Emily Jackson, media intern &

Elizabeth Norris, owner

Vintage European Posters

Founded 1997

2201 Fourth Street

Berkeley, CA 94710

510 843 2201

TWA, On The Cutting Edge of Design

August 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

At our Pop-Up show this past weekend, I had the pleasure of flipping the pile for a woman who was full of stories. As we worked our way through the small pile, we came across a poster for TWA, which led us to a discussion about the TWA Terminal at JFK Airport. I had never seen pictures of it, but the client I was working with assured me that it was worth seeing. She was right.

As I began reseraching the terminal and the history of TWA’s travel posters, I was intrigued by the ways in which aviation and travel posters have changed over the years.

Tychon, Semaine d’Aviation de Lyon, 1910

At the start of the 20th century when the airplane was a novel technology, most travel posters were focused on the planes themselves. It was the novelty of the technology, and the broad implications that the power of flight held both for speedy travel and military potential, that were glorified in these early posters. As aviation technology became more familiar and the flights became longer, it became increasingly important for posters to emphasize the comfort level of the planes.

Advertising the “safest and fastest plane”

Klein, TWA Paris, 1965

Between the 1930’s and the 1960’s, travel posters began to focus more on destinations, rather than the planes themselves.  This genre of destination poster saw its peak during the 1960’s, at the height of the Jet Age, and it was during this decade that architect Eero Sarrinen designed the famous TWA Terminal at JFK.

According to the architect, the curvilinear structure was meant to be an “icon of both modern air travel and modern design,” and an abstract symbol of flight. Sarrinen wanted it to be “a building in which the architecture itself would express the drama and specialness and excitement of travel,” and the curved shapes were meant to “emphasize an upward-soaring quality of line.”

Ezra Stoller, TWA Terminal at Idlewild (now JFK) 1962

So while the TWA posters of the 1960’s focused on destinations far and wide, the company chose to have the terminal glorify and honor the flight itself. Together they make a perfect pair, both destination and transportation.

Klein, TWA New York, 1965

TWA Terminal 1962

The terminal was closed in 2001 after American Airlines bought out TWA, but has recently been restored to its former glory – complete with orange carpets!

Restored TWA Terminal

The glamour of the Jet Age may have passed, but Saarinen’s beautiful building lives on in memory of an age when boarding a plane was an event and advertisements for TWA were pure works of art.

Klein, TWA San Francisco

Written by Emily Jackson, Media Intern Vintage European Posters

Edited by Elizabeth Norris, Owner Vintage European Posters

Established 1997, Member IVPDA

2201 Fourth Street

Berkeley, CA 94710

510 843 2201

Pan Am and the Glamour of Mid-Century Air Travel

November 15, 2011 § 1 Comment

For the past five years, we have seen an incredible surge of interest in the mid-century travel posters. We have sold a lot of these posters, and it got us wondering: why are there so many mid-century airline posters?

A photograph of Paris by Clipper Poster

Original "Paris by Clipper" Poster by Anonymous, 1951

The short answer is that the US  made huge innovations in aviation technologies during World War II, and, after the war, airlines enhanced the routes. Once there were planes and hubs,  it was up to advertising agencies to build the market for international travel. And voila! The posters.

A photograph of Portugal and Spain by Clipper Poster

Original "Portugal and Spain by Clipper" Poster by Carlu, 1950

A photograph of Germany Fly Pan American Poster

Original "Germany Fly Pan American" Poster by E. McKnight-Kauffer, c.1949

Mad Men got people thinking about ad men, and Pan Am, ABC’s new Sunday night  show, is going one step further, bringing to life the glamour of travel by plane in the 1960’s. We have enjoyed watching the show and couldn’t help noticing the many posters they use in their decor. So we decided to pull out our own collection of Pan Am travel posters.

A photograph of Caribbean Pan American Poster

Original "Caribbean Pan American" Poster by Anonymous, c.1965

Right now  in our Berkeley Showroom we are featuring travel posters for destinations VEP staff have visited and loved. Come take a look and catch the travel bug!

A photograph of Mexico Pan American Poster

Original "Mexico Pan American" Poster by E. McKnight-Kauffer, 1949

We will be open Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11.30-5 in November — except for Thanksgiving — and the first three weekends in December.

Vintage Posters Make Us SMARTER

October 31, 2011 § Leave a comment

Original Vintage Poster "Atoms for Peace"

Original "Atoms for Peace" Poster by Erik Nitsche, 1955.


Posters sometimes elicit a strong reaction.

A beautiful image can make a client sigh, inadvertently. Clown posters actually
make some people jump out of their skin! WWI and WWII posters make some people
tear up.  Until recently, I had never had a poster that elicited a chill.

Check out the General Dynamics Posters by Erik Nitsche. These rare Swiss posters were printed in the 1950s, to make people comfortable with the forward science of nuclearpower.  Each poster says “Atoms for Peace”
in a different language.

Now if that isn’t propaganda, I don’t know what is.  And these Cold War era posters do elicit a chill.

Recently, we had a man in our shop who was fascinated with
the ‘Nucleo Dynamics poster. When he left the store, he dug a little

Original Poster "General Dynamics Nucleodynamics"

"Nucleodynamics" General Dynamics Poster by Erik Nitsche, circa 1955

deeper.  Here is what he told us:

“As I had suspected, the arrangement of squares is a chopped
up (and incomplete) chart of the nuclides, which is a representation of the
different isotopes of every element. (Like a periodic table for nuclear
physicists.) One axis is the atomic number of the atom and the other is
the atomic weight (allowing differentiation of carbon-12 and carbon-14, for
example, or uranium-235 and 238).

The top section is the light elements, with hydrogen on the left to about neon
on the right. The middle section is much heavier atoms, from (I think)
tin on the left to somewhere in the lanthanide elements on the right. The
bottom section is the heaviest and least stable elements (or at least the
heaviest known in 1955). This terminus represented the focus of a great
deal of research, especially in 1955.

One other thing I should mention is that the coloring is not incidental.
The light blue squares denote stable isotopes. The other colors are all
unstable and therefore radioactive isotopes. The particular color for
each one tells more information about either the type of decay or the
half-life.  Note that the heaviest elements (the bottom patch)
contain no stable (blue) isotopes.”

Original Atoms for Peace Poster 1955

Swiss Poster of Nuclear Sub by Erik Nitsche for General Dynamics, 1955

And this is why we love our clients. We share what we know about posters, and they

Original General Dynamics Poster

Atoms for Peace Poster by Erik Nitsche

share what they know about the world.  In
the end, we all end up enriched, a little smarter and a little more in touch
with history. Bravo!

Geek out with VEP at the next LA Trunk Show “Posters for
November 12-13, 2011 at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel

Travel Posters and the Evolution of Flight

June 13, 2011 § 1 Comment

Early Commercial Air Travel

A photograph of Air France Marseille Poster

Original "Air France Marseille" Poster by Albert Solon, c. 1935

In today’s fast-paced world, we think nothing of scheduling a morning meeting 500 miles away with the intention of being home in time for supper. We take fast, cheap air travel for granted. It wasn’t always like this. In fact, a mere 75 years ago, the first passenger flights from San Francisco to Hong Kong took 3 days and cost $950 one way — the equivalent of $14,000 in today’s dollars.

Early long distance flights in the late 20’s and early 30’s were solely mail routes. In the U.S., Pan Am delivered the international mail and established routes, hubs, airports, pilots — creating the infrastructure upon which commercial aviation would later grow. Pan Am’s leader, Juan Trippe, thought he could increase profits by transporting a few passengers along with the mail and soon the Pan Am Clippers, also known as ‘flying boats,’ established regular passenger routes across the Pacific. This revolutionized travel: trips which had previously taken one month by ship, were accomplished by plane in a couple of days.

But travel wasn’t glamorous yet. A flight from Paris to New York was a twenty hour trip with two stops to refuel. The Clippers were twin engine planes and they could carry only 20 passengers. Because of this, travel posters in this time period suggest a sense of adventure — destinations were exotic, and the traveler was a pioneer.

A photograph of Pan American Poster

Original "Pan American Paris" Poster by Anonymous, 1951

Pan Am pressed on, and in 1942 they were the first airline to operate a commercial route circumnavigating the globe with stops ineight cities. Most commercial development came to a halt during WWII, as many of the big planes were pressed into service of the war. Their sole purpose was to carry military brass, soldiers, mail, supplies and munitions overseas. In fact, travel for leisure was discouraged as a waste of resources during wartime.

A photograph of Me Travel Poster

Original "ME Travel" Poster by Dorne, 1944

A photograph of Bundles for Berlin Poster

Original "Bundles for Berlin" Poster by Brindle, 1942Original "ME Travel" Poster by Dorne, 1944

Aviation was a huge part of WWII, both for transport and for combat. Squadrons of fighter jets helped win the war, but they also successfully trained pilots, advanced aviation technology and cemented routes which could be built on in the postwar period.

A photograph of TWA Egypt Poster

Original "TWA Egypt" Poster by David Klein, c. 1960

The Postwar Period

After World War II, TWA, United, Pan Am and American, battled to dominate transatlantic and transcontinental flights. Technological and marketing advances such as pressurized cabins (1940), the invention of “Ocean Liners for the Skies” aka Coach Class (1944) and Jet Engines (1958) made travel more comfortable, more affordable and faster. Finally, the world was open to everyone. In 1946, TWA joined Pan Am as a provider of international service with flights to Cairo, and soon after, flights to Bombay and Ceylon. Meanwhile TWA and United expanded their intercontinental routes. In 1946, the trip from coast to coast took 10 hours, with one stop to refuel in Nebraska. In 1953 TWA offered the first non-stop service from NY to California.

The travel posters from this time period reflect the sheer joy of travel and they were incredibly effective. Travel by air caught on. In 1958 more than 1 million passengers flew to Europe – for the first time overtaking the number who ‘crossed the pond’ by ocean line. By 1968, Transatlantic air travel had increased to six million passengers. The chance to see the world, a luxury once only available to the elite, was now accessible to the masses in the post war period.

A photograph of United Airlines New York Poster

Original "United Airlines New York" Poster by Stan Galli, c. 1960

A Photograph of United Airlines Los Angeles Poster

Original "United Airlines Los Angeles" Poster by Stan Galli, c. 1960

A photograph of United Airlines Hawaii Poster

Original "United Airliens Hawaii" Poster by Stan Galli, c. 1960

A photograph of Las Vegas Fly TWA Poster

Original "Las Vegas Fly TWA " Poster by David Klein, c. 1965

Airlines and boards of tourism poured money into their ad campaigns, as they tried to capture a slice of the tourist’s heart and therefore their dollars. Artists such as Guy Georget and Jean Carlu for Air France, (Air France French Riviera photo) David Klein for TWA (Las Vegas photo) and Stan Galli for United produced seductive images of faraway places to entice the viewer to choose their next holiday. Most of the posters were discarded and as a result,those that survived are highly sought after by collectors today.

A photograph of TWA Rome Poster

Original "TWA Rome" Poster by David Klein, c. 1965

If you want to know more about travels posters and the evolution of flight, you can check out those books:

The Art of the Airways by Geza Szurovy (2002) MBI Publishing

Air France Posters Making the World Dream by Louis-Jean Calvet & Philippe Thibault (2006) pub Le Cherche Midi

This is a reprint from an article published in Los Angeles Modernism Show‘s catalogue of April 3o – May 1, 2011

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