Late 19th Century Posters of Parisian Nightlife: Famous French Posters

poster art history

Poster art is a multifaceted, limitless and extremely beautiful topic to explore. Perhaps this is the answer to the question of how the graphic design and colorful advertising that we now know originated.

In today’s article, we will talk about the late 19th century posters of Parisian nightlife, whose work influenced what modernity admires today.

At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, all of Paris was covered with posters. This is the time of the so-called Belle Epoque when street advertising becomes a kind of mirror of social activity and new art. Idle life, theater, and cabaret aesthetics, sumptuous canoeists, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec with a glass of cognac in hand … Other famous and unknown artists and designers admired the Belle Epoque.

We invite you to get acquainted with five masterpieces of french poster artists, be inspired by vivid illustrations, and mentally find yourself among the streets and boulevards of the “artistic capital of the world.”

19th-Century Advertising Posters

famous french posters

Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec “Jane Avril” (1899)

Jeanne Louise Bodon is the dancer’s real name. She was one of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s favorite models. Everyone in Montmartre and the Latin Quarter knew her. Against the background of other dancers, Jeanne stood out with a strict appearance: always in long dresses buttoned up with all buttons. Despite this, her dance was incredibly sensual. This poster has never been presented to the public, but this does not prevent it from remaining one of the most significant and mesmerizing works of the famous artist.

Henri-Gabriel Ibel, a Cover of the Collection of Sheet Music “27” by Composer Georges Glanol (1893)

french poster artists

At that time, not only posters were popular, but all printing products, including various publications and popular illustrations for cheap magazines. Now Parisian poster art was available to both the upper strata of the French population and the common people.

The cover perfectly illustrates the tabloid life of the late 90s of the 19th century. Very bright, with a tinge of vulgarity, with sharp, quick strokes that convey the image of a primitive French couple. The work was presented at the exhibition “Posters in Paris 1900: From the Elite to the Street” in Amsterdam at the Van Gogh Museum.

Felix Vallotton “The Piano” (1896)

history of poster design

Felix Vallotton created Parisian posters in completely different styles, but his main distinguishing feature was the revival of the woodcut technique (woodcut).

Genre scenes and portraits look very organic in his memorable black and white palette. Clear contours, a sharp transition from black to white, and a certain angularity are the style differences of Vallotton as a graphic artist. Expression becomes an expressive feature of the creator not only in woodcut but also in Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and Japanese engraving.

Theophile-Alexander Steinlen, Poster for the Black Cat Cabaret (1896)

french poster artist

A menacing gaze, bulging fur, huge claws, and a long mustache resembling electrified antennas – this is exactly the black that is depicted on the cult poster. Steinlen was one of the popular poster makers, but he also illustrated magazines.

The poster for the “Black Cat” Cabaret is one of the artist’s most famous works. It was Steinlen’s favorite cabaret, where songs with a political context were performed, which was close to the creator himself. Therefore, for this institution, he created many more famous french posters. From childhood, Théophile-Alexander Steinlen had a special passion for cats, which became the main theme of his artworks. He not only depicted these cute and wayward animals but also made some statues of them from bronze.

Eugene Grasset, Poster for the Grafton Galleries Exhibition (1893)

Parisian posters

Steinlen’s elder contemporary Eugene Grasset created his poster art history in a special style, which featured color, graphics, and clear contours. The influence of the past can be traced in his works: Renaissance iconography, stained-glass windows, Japanese prints, graphics by medieval masters – all that Grasse was interested in. Clear, laconic, calm, his images are reminiscent of works of art and draw attention to the quality of workmanship.

With special delicacy, he conveys folds on clothes fluttering in the wind, lines on the hair whirl in their special dance, soft, discreet colors, a peaceful expression on the girl’s face, nature and gardens in the background … Everything plays a special role here: not a single element exists separately, and all the parts add up to a single whole

A Bit of History of Poster Design

Parisian poster art

All the above posters were posted on all the streets of Paris. The walls and columns were hung with colorful posters, and the kiosks sold illustrated magazines and sheet music. Young artists enthusiastically worked with such “popular print media”. They rejected the traditional division between “high” art, such as painting and sculpture, and “low” art, arts, and crafts. At the same time, the main task of the designers was formed – to accurately convey the commercial message to passers-by hurrying along the street.
Since its founding in 1970, the group has included Pierre Bernard, Gerard Paris-Clavel, and french poster artist François Miyet. Five years later, Jean-Paul Bachelet and Alexander Jordan joined them. Bernard and Paris-Clavel met back in 1966 in Warsaw – they studied together with the founder of the Polish school of a poster, Heinrich Tomaszewski. It is to him that they owe their hand-made poetics and deliberately careless calligraphy of gestures. Tomashevsky also taught them capacious visual metaphors. It is no coincidence that many symbols from the graphic vocabulary of Esperanto are found in the works of Grapu.

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