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Timeless Beauties

"Timeless Beauties" - International Poster Gallery

vintage poster, "Triplex" by Cassandre

The Ninth Annual Holiday Poster Show features such rare and outstanding Art Nouveau examples as Toulouse Lautrec's "Troupe de Mlle. Eglantine" (1896) and "Moet et Chandon" (1899), a pair of elegant panels by Alphonse Mucha featuring Byzantine-clad beauties. The posters provide a remarkable contrast between the two artists, Lautrec's bawdy view of the world as seen through a dance hall, and Mucha's reverential portraits.

The innovations of both artists were made possible by Jules Cheret, who in the 1880s perfected the color lithographic process. Known as the "Father of the Poster," Cheret created more than 1000 posters, many of them featuring beautiful young ladies that soon became known throughout France as "cherettes."  Three of his best posters are in the show: "El Dorado" (1896) for a Parisian dance hall; the "Quinquina Dubonnet" (1896) for a popular aperitif; and "Palais de Glace" (1893) an 8 foot panel advertising a Parisian skating rink.

A trio of rare posters from 1908 reveal how innovations in poster design spread around the globe after the turn of the century, foreshadowing the machine age style of the Art Deco period: Bertold Loeffler's Vienna Seccession masterpiece "Kunstschau Wien" demonstrates the trend toward geometry and abstraction. Ludwig Hohlwein's richly textured Plakatstil advertisement for the Swiss clothing store "PKZ" was a precursor to the tradition of Swiss avant-garde poster design.  Finally, the stunning "Bianco e Nero" by Marcello Dudovich balances all the refinement and grace of Art Nouveau design with a modernist simplification of forms.

After WWI, Art Nouveau's organic inspiration seemed irrelevant in an increasingly industrial society. The new realities were better expressed in the modern art movements of Cubism, Futurism, Dada and Surrealism, all of which would have a profound influence on graphic design.  The Twenties were a period of transition, and this can be seen in the stylized, yet soft, "Fourrures Canton" by Charles Loupot (see top of page).

This new machine-age aesthetic developed into what we now consider classic Art Deco, a style dedicated to speed, power and progress.  Shapes were simplified and streamlined; letterforms became sleek and angular.  Cassandre's deceptively simple "Triplex" (1931) and Marcello Nizzoli's cubist masterpiece for "Campari" (1926) are each fine examples of this new taste in design.