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COLLECTING VINTAGE POSTERS

There are two ways of approaching the collection of works such as those we have available now and plan to continue finding in the future. We should cover, at least somewhat, the complex and exciting energies swirling around the artworks and importantly accounting for the impulse to make them a part of your life. We touch upon this matter at the outset of this introduction. Then, we’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, with a little guidance. We have found that those attracted to these treasures tend to gravitate to one or two areas of personal interest. The following is a sample of those hot buttons, as illustrated by items we currently have on hand.

THE SPARK OF COLLECTING

Chances are you already have some inkling of the enticement powers inherent in much of the output by poster designers in the lithographic era (1890-1940). That appeal was clear to those first encountering this phenomenon, around 1890 in Paris. There were the aficionados of artists like Toulouse-Lautrec and Pierre Bonnard who trusted their heroes' decision to lighten up. But more importantly there were large numbers of viewers who had hitherto never thought of buying art, but who found the product and the price irresistible.

By the end of the 1890s there were dozens of retail outlets for posters. The trade depended upon the works' publishers agreeing to print a couple of hundred extra instances for the collectible market. By World War I, the boom in French poster collecting had come to an end. From then on the French experience would be more like that of other European countries, with a few devotees and a very few sources for purchase. The production advantages of cheap labor and materials and no real competition from other media, disappeared. Ambitiously-produced magazines and radio became very attractive advertising venues, while objections to posting on privately-owned walls became more forceful. With the onset of World War II, the métier dissolved to a shadow of its former self, as did the interest in collecting. With the Depression and the War and an increasing penchant for intellectual sobriety, the possibilities for collecting those designs were largely deprived of the wonderment earlier passers-by had more easily experienced.

Only much later, and on the margin of the vintage activity, in America, conditions for the revival of that wonderment became favorable.

One of the least heralded spinoffs of the rock and roll craze was its eliciting a remarkably astute recycling of vintage graphic art, particularly Art Nouveau poster design, in the form of psychedelic broadsheets for Bill Graham's Fillmore rock concerts series. Most people encountering this work had never considered posters as a source of excitement and fascination, let alone home decor. Rock posters fulfilled the same underappreciated revolutionary function performed by the lithographic gems of the Belle Époque and Art Deco periods. As quick takes, they were more suited to a busy home environment than the objects of study constituted by fine art in its academic, museum orientation. The posters at both ends of the spectrum subtly confirmed a special validity about sensual public attitudes and inventive, audacious deluxe materials. As such they branded a domain as forward-looking.

Getting down to the present state of affairs, the organization of our galleries indicates possible areas for collection and it displays relationships between specific items. With your collecting priorities as a point of departure, we could advise about complementary images, storage and investment strategies. As such we play our part in the upswing of a remarkable and still largely unsuspected history of graphic design.

COLLECTING GUIDELINES
A) STYLE

Art Nouveau

The nitty gritty side of the mystical romanticism of Art Nouveau was a marketing assault eliciting the new and daring creature comforts coming onstream in the era just before World War I

Belle Époque

Before the surge of discrimination brought about by the perplexity of the full-blown modern era, there was the first flowering of commercial graphics (from about 1890) celebrating not only freshly-minted industrial production products and industrial-age entertainments, but the beauty of newly discovered powers of lithography as affixed to the stirring of nineteenth-century Romantic inspiration.

Art Deco

We have found that the most sought-after tone to be discovered in the métier of poster art is what could be generally called “art deco” style. That configuration is characterized by simplification of forms and colors to an effect of urbane buoyancy, dynamic daring and challenge to a fretful, plush and sentimental past.

Moderne

Deriving from that deco initiative directly following World War I and extending up to World War II, is a production practice extending, while making more commonplace the rewards of the streamline of advanced industrialization. These latter works celebrate mass-marketed consumption and post-World War II material well-being.

Avant-Garde

There are collectors who tend not to be amused by the effervescence of most poster graphics, but take pleasure from those works reflecting more systematic motives as to a changing world. One such trenchant effort looks to the innovative architectural initiative of the Bauhaus.

Another approach allies itself with Surrealism.

A third variation on that theme comes under the sway of the Expressionist option.

And a fourth variation comprises Italian Futurism.


Pin-Up

Deco and Moderne represented a factor of unprecedented composure introduced into commercial life, a poise that knew itself to have sexual allure. Following from that sober advantage, there ensued an arresting delta of more commonplace sexuality in the service of sealing the deal.

B) SUBJECT

Due to personal interests and decorating needs, many collectors buy graphics centering upon a single consumer product or service. Here we’ll just let the illustrations make this point.


Food & Beverages

Entertainment

Sports

Transportation

Publishing

Products & Services

Politics & War

Animals in Advertising

Travel

Circus/Cirque

Fashion
C) COUNTRY

Many collectors love to see tributes to their own home area and/or demonstrations of their country`s artistic and technical skills. In addition to that some collectors have a favorite country to visit.


France

USA

Canada

Italy

Switzerland

Spain

Britain

Germany

Japan

Mexico

India

Australia/New Zealand

Denmark

Netherlands
D) ARTIST

Sooner or later a collector is bound to become especially fond of work by one or a few artist/designers. Here is a sampling of popular graphic artists.


Pal

Loupot

Brun

Boccasile

Treidler

Ewart

Riccobaldi
E) FORMATS

PLACARDS

Many great designs are created for these indoor signs printed on heavy paper or thin cardboard.


Lithographic Portfolios

In the 1920s and 1930s an amazing number of deluxe designs spoke to enthusiasts for the special magic of fine lines on fine paper.


Pochoirs

These hand-colored fashion plates were produced to entice wealthy women to purchase Parisian haute couture. Their powers extend far beyond that financial affair.


Illustrated Books

Particularly in France, there were produced dazzling publications whose visual component often upstaged the literature to which it was attached.


Artistic Magazines

Before camera work dominated such publications, there were magazines that could take your breath away.


ASIA

FORTUNE

HARPER’S BAZAAR

VOGUE

Promotional Catalogues

As a distinguished example of this category, the Nicolas Wine distribution firm produced a series of very ambitious annual offerings. The example we show here is the centrefold of the 1931 edition by A.M. Cassandre.


Advertising Fans

A whimsical and wonderful instance of graphic art is the advertising fan, particularly prevalent in France in the 1920s and 1930s.