Loved it! Definitely go!
As advertised, this exhibition whisks you away to Paris before the turn of the previous century, and together with our old friend (as in “we’ve heard of him before”) Toulouse-Lautrec, we meet the movers and shakers of the poster world – and learn a lot about that world and the influence it had on advertising, as well as art. I recommend a visit!
One of the aspects of studying art history which I believe recommends it to all people who wish to be considered educated, is that art history is the study of history, literature, religion, social and cultural movements, and of course, art. This particular show covers not only the poster as art, but touches the evolution of entertainment in France at the same time, as well as the role of the poster in product advertising and the rise in popularity of certain products – notably the bicycle!
The bicycle was “women’s lib” a la 1890s and just as it gave women the freedom to move around on their own, using naked female bodies in advertising was becoming vogue. (The censors didn’t like it, but all you had to do was add a couple of “moth” wings and voila (we’re talking about Paris here) the naked female is now a naked fairy…naked fairies were ok.)
We see the creation of the “Cherette” a generic, nubile female – usually blond – used to advertise just about anything! (Ironic, isn’t it: We’re still doing that today…) Her name came from the star of this poster show, Jules Cheret, who was one of the most prolific poster makers, and certainly the style setter for the genre. Though the exhibition includes many works by Toulouse Lautrec, he is not the star, he’s the bait. His personal take on the genre and his preferences for certain artists on the entertainment scene, are probably worthy of a separate exhibition, but here the real focus is on the posters and the part they played on the art scene of the time.
It is worth noting: These posters were highly sought after by local people as art work to hang in their homes. They were affordable (of course, because they were stolen!) but from their popularity grew an industry of poster reproduction in all sizes to salve the craving of the masses for affordable art. Imagine, if artists of the caliber of Toulouse Lautrec were creating posters, you know the value of what they stealing! We still purchase those posters today (you will recognize many of them!) and hang them as affordable art on our walls. I have 4 framed posters from artists in this exhibition, in reduced size, on the wall of my dining are here in Milwaukee.
Go see the show. You’ll really enjoy it, and you’ll learn something fun, too.