One of the most striking confirmations of the wide-spread spirit of radical innovation in early-twentieth-century Europe is an endeavor seldom, if ever, noticed. While the Communist Manifesto cascaded from strengths to strength in those days, a far more trenchant enterprise garnered few takers. The little cadre of Parisian fashion illustrators in the hand-colored (pochoir) field–producing vignettes whereby new clothing styles could shine–proved to have much more than expensive finery in their outlook.
Working from a point of departure of fabulous wealth and exclusivity, those dandies who participated in sealing the deals would rather frequently devise scenes bristling with frissons taking the princesses into mountain-top-like spaces where they would be, in addition to Easy Street, at death’s door. That seeming path to prompt dismissal proved, in fact, extremely popular with those birds in gilded cages who were experts in malaise and were emboldened to see themselves (while spending oodles of their husbands money) as participating in a (passive) rebellion.
The streamline style of the works in the pochoirs would speak to them as sensual equipment for a war that would be confined to mansions. But for those of us encountering those transactions long after the principals had died, these seemingly quixotic struggles touch us as marvellously current precursors to the cheeky but tepid photographic vamping in the glossy promotions of today.
Our first pochoir is a classic of facing an abyss (the two window panels evoking contradictory ways of sensibility, with the lady on the spot to deliver a forward momentum including both chutes.