ALL ABOUT ART NOUVEAU - Art nouveau was the prevailing European design style of the last decade of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th. The term, meaning 'new art', is French, and was originally applied to groups of artists and designers in France and Belgium. Later, it became something of a catch-all category, embracing Arts and Crafts and Aestheticism in Britain, new crafts movements in Holland and Scandinavia, Jugendstil in Germany, and the Vienna Secession in Austria, among others. Chatelaine's Antiques Collectibles Appraisals


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Chatelaine's Antiques and Appraisals Magazine > Decorative Arts > Feature: Art Nouveau Posters

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Art Nouveau Art Nouveau Art Posters

 Created in Paris in the 1880s as an advertising medium, illustrated colour posters were soon seen as a new art form, and one that attracted many of the talented artists that lived in the city.
  On 29 July 1881, the local government in Paris passed a law removing all controls on the display of posters. By 1885, every inch of public wall space in the city was covered with a colourful riot of paper, sometimes several layers deep.

Alphonse Mucha - Monaco Monte-Carlo
Monaco Monte-Carlo
Alphonse Mucha
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 Public notices were nothing new - some have been found on the walls of the preserved Roman city of Pompeii but prior to 1881 had lacked a vital ingredient. Before, they were always letter-pressed in black and white; afterwards, they were almost all in colour.

 The technique of colour printing by lithography, transferring coloured inks to paper from a large, flat stone, had been around since the end of the 18th century, but wasn't perfected for 50 years. By 1848, it was possible to print as many as 10,000 sheets an hour.

 One of the pioneers of the technique in Paris was Jules Cheret, later known as the father of colour posters. He learned the trade in England and set up his own workshop in Paris in 1858, when he was just 22. Drawing directly onto the lithographic stones, he had created nearly 100 posters, each with a print run of around 20,000, by 1890.

Jules Chéret - Palais De Glace
Palais De Glace
Jules Chéret
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 Paris in the 1880s and 1890s had an extremely lively social scene, full of theatres, music-halls, cafe-concerts and circuses, all competing for clients with poster advertising. Some of them, such as the Folies-Bergere, the Moulin Rouge and the Hippodrome, were among Cheret's best clients.

 The varied night-life also attracted members of the city's artist colony, who were attracted to the new opportunities afforded them by the advertising poster. For some of them, like Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, posters were an important medium.

 The work of the crippled artist, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, is characterized by its movement and life. The subject matter of his paintings was largely the night-life of Paris, and more specifically of Montmartre and its famous music hall, the Moulin Rouge, which he also celebrated in a number of posters.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec - Poster, Moulin Rouge, 1890
Poster, Moulin Rouge, 1890
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
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 Many of the artists who were domiciled in Paris were associated with the beginnings of art nouveau, which greatly influenced poster design. Alphonse Mucha, a Czech who had lived in the city since 1887, began making posters in 1894, using the actress Sarah Bernhardt as his model. Elements of his graphic style came to define art nouveau.


 Posters that were published in the Golden Age, which lasted from around 1881 to the outbreak of World War 1, can fetch very high prices, particularly those created by top artists such as Toulouse-Lautrec, Cheret, Bonnard, Vuillard, Mucha, Ibels and Roussel. All these artists, and many others, signed their work. Unsigned posters, and work by lesser-known artists, can be a little less expensive.

 Subject matter is less important. Then, as now, the advertiser's first choice to sell his product was a young woman, and men very rarely appear on posters.


 Posters have been collectable right from the start. In the Paris of the 1880s, aficionados could be seen scurrying through the streets at night, tugging down loose posters and making off with them. The first poster exhibition took place in 1883 in Rheims, and several galleries dedicated to posters opened soon afterwards.

 Magazines dedicated to the new art form began publishing in the 1890s. The first ones were French; but the craze spread to England, where Poster was published, and the USA, which produced The Poster and Poster Love.

 Art nouveau posters by famous artists are rare finds, and are almost exclusively the province of specialist art and ephemera dealers and auction houses. Because of their rarity, many of the most popular designs have been reproduced over the years.


 The glossy finish of posters that have been reproduced photographically makes them easy to spot, but this isn't necessarily so of other printing techniques. Remember that genuine lithographs are made up of areas of solid colour. Look closely, preferably with a magnifying glass, at the edges of coloured areas. If the tint resolves into a pattern of tiny dots, it's a reproduction. Out of register printing, with blurry edges, is also a giveaway.

 Century-old posters are rarely, if ever, found in mint condition, unless they have been mounted - many old posters have been backed with linen - and framed early in their life. Most genuine old posters you may find will have been damaged in some way.

 This will always affect the price, but won't necessarily make them worthless. Pinholes, remains of paste, slight fading, small creases and folds, even small tears, especially to the borders, can be seen as signs of authenticity rather than serious flaws.

Toulouse-Lautrec: A Life
-- by Julia Bloch Frey; Paperback

Henri De Toulouse Lautrec -- by Douglas Cooper, Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec; Hardcover

Toulouse-Lautrec -- by Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec, et al; Hardcover

Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec
by Patrick Bade, Nicholas Jude

Toulouse-Lautrec: The Soul of Montmartre (Pegasus Library)
by Reinhold Heller

Toulouse-Lautrec: Scenes of the Night (Discoveries)
by Claire Freches, et al

Alphonse Mucha: The Spirit of Art Nouveau -- by Victor Arwas, et al; Hardcover

The Art Nouveau Style Book of Alphonse Mucha: All 72 Plates from "Documents Decoratifs" in Original Color -- by Alphonse Marie Mucha; Paperback

Drawings of Mucha: 70 Works -- by Alphonse Marie Mucha; Paperback

Alphonse Mucha by Don Kurtz, et al

Posters of Jules Cheret: 46 Full-Color Plates & and Illustrated Catalogue Risonne
by Jules Cheret, Lucy Broido

The Complete Masters of the Poster
by Stanley Appelbaum



Toulouse-Lautrec: A Life -- by Julia Bloch Frey; Paperback
"I expect to burn myself out by the time I'm forty," vowed Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), whose alcoholism, sexual debauchery with prostitutes and probable syphilis led to his death in 1901 at age 36. In the fullest portrait of the great French artist to date (superbly illustrated with 84 photographs and 50 color plates), Frey traces Toulouse-Lautrec's self-destructiveness to psychic pain resulting from congenital dwarfism and the conflicts of his parents-first cousins from a wealthy, aristocratic, inbred family-who used him as a pawn in their endless power struggle. The combination of a pious, overprotective, controlling mother and a grandiose, anti-clerical, manic-depressive father produced an ambivalent son who sought refuge in art. In oils, lithographs and posters, Lautrec penetrated people's masks and exposed undercurrents of despair, poverty and exploitation beneath the Belle Epoque's superficial gaiety. Drawing on hundreds of previously untapped letters and family documents, Frey, who teaches art and literature at the University of Colorado, has produced a vivid, engrossing, often astonishing biography that delves into Toulouse-Lautrec's obsession with gems and hygiene, his mania for publicity, his love-hate relationship with his mother and troubled relations with other women. 
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
In this readable biography of French painter and poster artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), which draws on primary sources and family letters, the focus is on biography rather than art criticism. Toulouse-Lautrec, best known for his posters in Art Nouveau style of cabaret performers, was of aristocratic stock; neither of his parents comes off well, and the author casts his life as a reaction to both abandonment by a manic-depressive father and domination by a rigidly pious mother. This psychological approach works well on the personal level. Frey (Univ. of Colorado, Boulder), who has studied the artist for a decade, has a solid command of the literature, though her style can be overly familiar at times. Recommended for general collections. (Notes and color plates not seen.)-Jack Perry Brown, Art Inst. of Chicago Lib.
From Booklist
If Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) had been born healthy, he would have been a count, but his parents were first cousins--not the only such couple in the family--and their folly led to the genetic malady that caused him so much pain and suffering. A good-natured child in spite of his chronic illnesses and deformity, Toulouse-Lautrec channeled his considerable energy into drawing and painting. At first his parents, a most incompatible pair, were pleased, but once Toulouse-Lautrec was on his own in Paris, living the bohemian life and painting scandalous pictures of cabaret and brothel life, they were mortified, a conflict still raging on the day of his tragic death. Frey, trained as an artist, and with a doctorate in French, is the ideal biographer for Toulouse-Lautrec. As she chronicles his transformation from a pampered invalid into one of the most radical of the fin de siecle artists, Frey expresses a lively and compassionate interest in his complex psyche, and focuses on how he coped with his deformity. Frey also discusses Toulouse-Lautrec's profound ambivalence toward women and his artistic innovations and achievements. Her sensitive, eloquent, and richly illustrated biography has brought the real Toulouse-Lautrec out from behind the scrim of myth and such indelible images as Moulin Rouge, La Goulue for the first time, and he is absolutely fascinating. Donna Seaman
From Kirkus Reviews
Stiff and hobbled by its own exhaustiveness, this biography of Paris's tiny painter/provocateur (18641901) takes lively material and renders it lifeless. Frey (French/Univ. of Colorado, Boulder) raided a trove of newly released Toulouse-Lautrec family letters for this life study. Writing to his dear ``Maman'' and other dotty family members, the painter reveals himself only in the most guarded terms. He presents a foppish self-caricature, one that pokes fun at his own dwarfism, aristocratic background, and artistic pretensions. Frey provides more than ample surrounding historical context. She discusses thoroughly the wealthy Toulouse-Lautrec bloodline, its possible genetic inbreeding, and prickly family dynamic. Lively illustrations throughout enrich the text, and in art historical matters Frey, who has training as a printmaker, is most solid. Paris's period atelier system is depicted with some color. A sensible account of Toulouse-Lautrec's technical development follows, particularly strong in its analysis of the liberating effect that lithography had on the artist's work and its role in propagating his public image. Examined at length are Toulouse- Lautrec's possible influences: the formidable shadow of Edgar Degas, the development of still photography, the radical perspectival schemes introduced to Westerners by Japanese prints, and the philosophical convictions of the social realist and art nouveau movements. Less convincing are the author's constant attempts to second-guess Toulouse-Lautrec's psychological motivations for depicting his chosen subjects--the performers and prostitutes of Paris's bohemian Montmartre--and her ceaseless harping on his chronic alcoholism, possible sex life, and probable syphilitic condition. Frey includes extraneous detail to the point of annoyance. No true sense of Toulouse-Lautrec the person emerges. Painstaking and scrupulously scholarly without managing to be evocative. (84 b&w illustrations; 24 pages color illustrations, not seen) -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
Atlantic Monthly
Ms. Frey has had access to family papers that were either overlooked or concealed until recently, and these documents have enabled her to provide information on areas of the painter's life in which gossip and guess have previously flourished. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's story remains basically what it has always been--an example of great accomplishment against heavy odds of pain and physical disability--but added detail makes it even more impressive, and Ms. Frey's attention to relatives, friends, fellow artists, and dealers creates a solid worldly setting. There are numerous black-and-white illustrations and fifty color plates, which, although small in scale, serve the reference purposes for which they are intended.
Well-written, well-constructed, and intelligently sympathetic, this is an excellent biography of an extraordinary artist.
Book Description
Debauched aristocrat, cabaret painter, accidental dwarf: Julia Frey's definitive, superbly researched biography strips away the myth of Toulouse-Lautrec to reveal the tortured man beneath. A remarkable and compelling portrait, featuring 135 photos and illustrations. Julia Frey earned her Ph.D. from Yale University. An expert on 19th-century French literature and culture, she has taught at Yale, Brown, Sarah Lawrence, and the University of Colorado; she currently divides her time among New York, Boulder, and Paris. A Pen Award-winning writer, she is also the author of Writers and Puppets in Nineteenth-Century France.
A definitive chronicle of the life of one of the world's great artists draws from thousands of previously unavailable family letters to capture the essence of Toulouse-Lautrec's life and to accurately evoke his time period.

Toulouse-Lautrec -- by Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec, et al; Hardcover
Elisabeth Sherwin, The Davis (Calif.) Enterprise, March 4, 2001
Parents wishing to instruct teen-agers about the world's great art works will find this series extremely useful 
Sarah Raymond, Professionally Speaking: The Magazine of the Ontario College of Teachers, December 2000
The series offers a welcome update to older volumes... 
Kimberly Hundley, Today's Librarian, November 2000
This truly outstanding series, a bargain at $14.95 per book, deserves a place in any private, public, or school library 
Karen A. Wyckoff, ForeWord Magazine, October 2000
...late author and noted art critic Federico Zeri's engaging verve and expertise are cast easily within even a novice's grasp... 
Book Description
These richly illustrated art books cover several centuries of great artists and their masterworks. From Rubens to Dali, each artist's life and times, influences, legacy, and style are explored in depth. Each book analyzes a particular painting with regard to the history surrounding it, the techniques used to create it, and the hidden details that make up the whole, providing a thorough look at each artist's career. Included is a bibliography, a chronological reading of principle works, a brief life history, and listings of public collections featuring each artist. 
About the Author
Federico Zeri, an eminent art historian and critic, was vice president of the National Council for Cultural and Environmental Treasures and was decorated with the Legion of Honor by the French Government. He passed away in 1998.

Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec
by Patrick Bade, Nicholas Jude
Descendant of an old aristocratic French family dating back more than a 1000 years, Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) spent most of his life among the Parisian demimonde, in the twilight of the fin-de-sicle Paris. Lautrec was not one of those mythmakers who doubted the reality of perception. This quality allowed him an astonishing ability to understand the conditions of the socially ostracized milieu, which enabled him to look behind the faade of a crumbling bourgeoisie civilization. The pompous gesture of a mime, a funny hair ribbon, the tired expression of a barman, or the luxurious arrangement of a feather boa fascinated Lautrec. Although women were at the center of Lautrec's interests, nudes only make sporadic appearances in his work.

Toulouse-Lautrec: The Soul of Montmartre (Pegasus Library)
by Reinhold Heller

Toulouse-Lautrec: Scenes of the Night (Discoveries)
by Claire Freches, et al
This compassionate narrative combines with reminiscences of the artist's friends to vividly evoke Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's tragic, bohemian life. Sumptuous reproductions of paintings, prints, and drawings show why his artistic influence was so great. 227 illustrations, many in full color.

Alphonse Mucha: The Spirit of Art Nouveau -- by Victor Arwas, et al; Hardcover
Alphonse Mucha (1890-1939) was one of the most important decorative artists in Paris at the turn of the century. His sensual female portraits with their elaborate borders?le style Mucha?embody the essence of Art Nouveau. The Mucha family and the Mucha Foundation have put together a touring exhibition of Mucha's work, and this is the companion volume. Though numerous works on Mucha have appeared in the past few decades, none have been as exhaustive as this illustrated group of essays by noted European experts. The full-scale treatment covers paintings, decorative panels, pastels, drawings, photographs, jewelry, and advertisements as well as numerous book and magazine illustrations. The essays elucidate Mucha's political activities in Czechoslovakia, which spawned the enormous murals "The Slav Epic"; his association with the actress Sarah Bernhardt; and the impact of American patronage on his later work. This lavish homage may prove to be the most important study of an amazing and prolific artist. Highly recommended. Joseph C. Hewgley, Nashville P.L., Antioch

Book Description
This lavishly illustrated book presents the full spectrum of Alphonse Mucha`s works, from his innovative posters and decorative panels to his architectural designs, jewelry, sculpture, photographs, books, and interiors. The authors discuss Mucha`s years in Paris, his iconography of Sarah Bernhardt, his service to the Czech government, his distinctive style that became nearly synonymous with turn-of-the-century French Art Nouveau, and much more.

The Art Nouveau Style Book of Alphonse Mucha: All 72 Plates from "Documents Decoratifs" in Original Color -- by Alphonse Marie Mucha; Paperback
Among graphic artists and commercial designers, Alphonse Maria Mucha (1860-1939) is praised for his innovative style books that pioneered the use of Art Nouveau in commercial packaging, design, and ornament. The most important of these style books was DOCUMENTS DECORATIFS, published in 1901, and carefully reproduced here.

Drawings of Mucha: 70 Works -- by Alphonse Marie Mucha; Paperback

Alphonse Mucha by Don Kurtz, et al
USA Today Magazine, September 1997 
".... For those really into the pin-up scene, Collectors Press has produced a companion series ... called Vignettes... 
Playboy, March 1997 
"We're not the only ones who think pin-ups are one of the greatest art forms in American history." 
Reviewer's Bookwatch, An Official Newsletter of The Midwest Book Review, March 1997 
"The Collectors Press "Vignettes" series is a celebration of the American pin-up artist..." 
Book Description
Mucha's Byzantine beauties graced walls throughout Paris in the late 1890s. These romantic female figures were incredibly popular and forever changed the movement of art nouveau.

Posters of Jules Cheret: 46 Full-Color Plates & and Illustrated Catalogue Risonne
by Jules Cheret, Lucy Broido