The Art of Food and Drink
October 1 through December 1, 2013
We proudly present Posters a la Carte, an exhibition of 50 original vintage Food & Drink posters from the Belle Epoque to the Sixties. The show traces the use of posters by the food and beverage industry, from Absinthe to Coca-Cola and from Foie Gras to Jello. The show focuses on the fascinating approaches taken by poster artists to make their ads memorable - humor, sex, caricature, fantasy, charm and eye popping tromp l'oeil affects, among others.
The new advertising medium of the lithographic poster became one of the most visible symbols of the Belle Époque, the "Beautiful Epoch" of the 1890s in Paris and in major cities in Europe and the US. Along with posters of travel, entertainment, fashion and politics, food and drink posters proliferated on city walls, as many of the products became staples for the burgeoning middle class. Paris alone had nearly 30,000 cafes in 1895, and the whole of France claimed 435,000 - one for every 80 inhabitants! Drinking was a way of life, and by 1890 beer and wine were but two of the most popular.
The exhibition begins with a classic 1894 poster by Jules Cheret, the father of the color lithographic poster, for the French tonic wine Vin Mariani, which until 1910 was spiked with cocaine. Effortlessly floating through the air, a beautiful "Cherette" pours a glass and seems to express the carefree pleasure of the age. Two other works in the exhibition capture the essence of the era. Absinthe Parisienne of 1896 reveals the naughty side, with a sorcerer in black tempting a young damsel with the tag line "Try it and you will see." And T.A. Steinlen's famous 1894 portrait of his daughter giving milk to her cats in Lait Pur Sterilise de la Vingeanne captures the era in its most charming intimacy.
At the same time as spirit makers were evolving into large enterprises, some food categories such as olive oil, chocolate, biscuits, pasta and cheese became commercially significant as well. A wonderful example is the little schoolboy ad Lulu Biscuits by Firmin Bousset printed originally in 1897 for Lefevre Utile, a large manufacturer still in existence today.
The new century brought a host of new products and manufacturing sophistication. In 1900, leading product poster artist Leonetto Cappiello would make hundreds of these products well known and unforgettable through humor, bright color and wild metaphors. What better way to promote a "pick me up" drink than to show a playfully devilish statue of a satyr coming to life while drinking it through a straw, as in his Menthe Pastille of 1906, Achille Mauzan, another top artist, created a timeless close-up for Bertozzi Parmiggiano in 1924 of 3 elderly Italians crowding around a cheese wheel, savoring its aroma.
The Art Deco era of the 1930s, while creating many streamlined, modernist images for food and drink products, did not abandon the use of humor either. Marcello Nizzoli in 1926 created two stunning Cubist inspired posters for Campari, the leading Italian aperitif that had commissioned first-rate posters continuously since the 1890s.
The Germans and especially the Swiss pursued the Object Poster, a simple but dramatic style that eliminated most text and focused on the object. A fine example is Herbert Leupin's 1939 poster for Bell of a gigantic carving board with cold cuts and bacon - a visual shock with a touch of levity in the pickle used as garnish. A.M. Cassandre, the most important poster artist of the era, created perhaps the most famous advertising character for Dubonnet that merged Art Deco style with the Cappiello approach in 1932.
The Fifties would witness the rise of the global brand, and the poster adapted to the baby boom economy. The predominant style was relaxed, playful and youthful. Perfect examples from the show include Herbert Leupin's series for Coca-Cola, Pepita and Eptinger, and some anonymous American posters for Jello.
The exhibition will conclude with a small group of posters from World War I and II for food conservation, an essential factor in the Allied success in both wars.
Food and beverage posters comprise one of the most popular categories of vintage poster collecting, and are perennial favorites in kitchens and dining rooms as well as in bars and restaurants.
States IPG President Jim Lapides: "Even after decades of vintage poster collecting, many superb posters in this category are surprisingly affordable and offer great opportunity for new and sophisticated collectors alike."
View all food and drink posters.
back to top