“The Origins, from Cheret to Toulousse-Lautrec,” summarized.


“The Origins, from Cheret to Toulousse-Lautrec,” an excerpt from The Poster In History, p.297 by Max Gallo is here summarized:

“The development of the poster can be examined in terms of masterpieces created by renowned artists; or— and this approach is more relevant to the times—it can be examined in terms of the artistic problems presented by two characteristics peculiar to poster: the marriage of images and word, and the possibility of duplicating a given poster an infinite number of times.”

Later, the worth of posters rose with the advent of poster collectors.  First prints and artist proofs were treated like paintings.

“…there is not mush point in seeking the antecedents of the poster in the heraldic banners of Ancient Egypt or processional flags of Pompeii.  More relevant to its development are the notices and proclamations that began to appear on public walls after the invention of printing.”

In the second half of the 19th century the industrial revolution created a consumer economy.  The role of posters was to sell and persuade.


The narratrive poster made in France by Cheret and Lautrec.

The symbolic art nouveau poster prevalent in England, Austira, and Germany.

Les Chats, 1868, Edouard Manet, was the first poster for the J. Rothschild publishing house.  This image does not truly demonstrate the rapport between word and image.  Instead it illustrates the title of the book being advertised.

Edouard Manet

Edouard Manet

“…the origin of the pictoral poster is to be found both in a new function of illustration and in the emergence of a new kind of audience.  Poster illustrations derived from the kind of public waas composed of the middle and lower-middle classes, which flocked to the boulevard theaters of Paris.”

In the last decade of the nineteenth century, Lautrec and Cheret created a revolution in poster design.

Cheret (1836-1932) drew directly onto the Lithograph stone.  He created a new style that combined text and image in a unique way while concentrating on theater posters.  May have been inspired by the circus posters.

Jules Cheret

Jules Cheret

For Cheret, illustrating typography was the most important factor and what made him stand out, even when he took up artistic influence from Lautrec.  “…He came to make the words themselves into illustrations.” p. 299

Cheret’s originality was in his presentation rather than his influences (Giambattista, Giandomenico, Tiepolo, Watteau).  His work is characteristic of strong colors, bold lines, foreshortened figures in the foreground and a sketched background.  He quoted motifs from Lautrec later in his career such as a shadowy background figure and diagonal composition.

Lautrec (1864-1901) was inspired by Japanese woodcuts, Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gaugin.  His work had more of a vocus on the illustration and the characteristics of the figures rather than the text.  His work had characteristic flat colors and foreshortening.  Created posters for La Revue Blanche and the night club Divan Japonais.

“Toulouse-Lautrec’s genius is diverse, not because he was an ‘artist’ but because he created a synthetic, revolutionary means of telling a story that was much more advanced than that being proposed in contemporary painting.” p. 301

Bonnard’s posters are “rather ordinary.”

Posters by important painters the author chooses to mention: Felix Vallotton’s La Pepiniere (before 1894); Maurice Denis’ La Depeche de Toulouse (1895); Jaques Villon’s Maggie Berck (1904); and Theophile Alexandre Steinlen (1859-1923).

Theophile Alexandre Steinlen is best known for Tournee du Chat Noir (1868). He is the link between Cheret and Toulouse-Lautrec.  His work was somewhat clumsy but quintessentially French without giving into the developing Art Nouveau style.

Steinlen’s posters became banal and marked the end of the “great ‘cultural’ moment of the French poster.”


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