To say that a priority of flashy sensations is in the air these days is not telling you anything you don’t already know. A recent and generally decried Nicolas Refn film, The Neon Demon (2016), tackles the rabid self-assertion flooding through millennial actions. Here, though, we want to look at earlier periods marked by overconfident and cynical forces as coming forth by way of vintage poster art. And particularly we’re on the lookout–as was Refn–for strengths in the heart of such weakness.
The advent of somewhat crazy self-satisfaction in lithographic promotions involved a critical mass of bohemians in the 1890s and onward to the beginning of World War I, centered in the Montmartre district of Paris, who had dovetailed with and catalyzed a robust skeptical and secular spirit found in so many Parisians, to the effect that they were well advanced in audacity, lucidity and joie de vivre. The so-called Belle Epoque era would be celebrated in poster art, to crown products and services with the magic of the modern.
Our first vintage design here fittingly emerges from the very heart of the mystique of Paris as the wellspring of artistic innovation and superiority. The offspring of an avant-garde literary publication, the Salon des Cents comprised a group of Parisian posterists who maintained that poster and illustration art could rise beyond “fine art” inasmuch as it spoke with great authority to the “man in the street” whose instincts (the movement believed) responded to a visceral dimension both powerful and never, till then, coming to bear. From another perspective, this insurgency could be called “Surrealism”–a devotion to life-changing sensation. Continue reading