kristin chapman

Creative Bleed Archive

Exhibit: Posters of Paris

Cover, Posters of Paris, Mary Weaver Chapin

While in Milwaukee, the Posters of Paris exhibit was happening at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Over the last few weeks I have been pouring over the exhibit catalog I picked up as a souvenir for myself. If we could only do one thing while in Milwaukee this was it. The Art Nouveau movement was one of my favorite periods to study in art and design history. And as designer I just adored these posters that plastered Paris at the start of the industrial revolution.

These posters are often referred to as affiche artistique meaning the artistic poster. The posters are hand illustrated and then mass produced using color lithography. The artists often paired lively colors with wide smiles, flamboyant limbs and of course, dancing women. The posters carried so much movement, expression and excess you almost feel left out as a viewer. What a time to be in Paris, Belle Époque! (And suddenly I need to watch Midnight in Paris again).

Manuel Orazi, Loie Fuller, 1900, p122, Posters of Paris, Mary Weaver ChapinThe exhibit paired sketches and maquettes demonstrating the artist process to the final lithograph. Footage of Loie Fuller was also included in the exhibit alongside of her posters by Chéret, Pal and Orazi who illustrate the colorful movements she created on stage. Manuel Orazi’s poster of Loie Fuller for the 1900 Exposition was one of my favorites. The way the colorful fabric obscures the dancer is beautiful. The contrast of graphic shapes against the gradient background is visually playful. I adore his use of juxtaposition between hard and soft lines, bold and muted colors. With so many Art Nouveau elements such as her hair, the roses and graphic shapes the poster still transcends into something timeless. The type, softness and layout sets this poster apart from other Orazi’s posters, giving it that modern edge.  

Leonetto Cappiello, Automobiles Brasier, 1906, p62. Maurin Quina, 1908, 63, Posters of Paris, Mary Weaver ChapinIt’s no wonder these posters became so sought after. The posters that dominated the streets of Paris during this time were often taken down by collectors and thieves before the glue dried. Poster parties began happening in private homes where guests would dress as the characters illustrated in their favorite posters. The term affichomanie (poster mania) was coined to describe the escalated popularity and love of the posters. Collectors took great care in storing and preserving these posters. Which we can see throughout this exhibit. The vibrancy of Leonetto Cappiello posters is compelling. To think these lithographs are over 100 years old and the ink is still so electrifying is something a history book could never replicate.

It is no wonder that Maurice Talmeyr an art critic of the time referred to them as the “spectacle of posters.” I can only imagine what the streets of Paris must have looked like at the turn of the century. Poster of Paris runs in Milwaukee a few more days and then moves on to Dallas till January. It would be great to see this exhibit in the Bay Area. K