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BERNARD VILLEMOT (1911-1989)

Villemot missed the full flowering of French lithographic poster art, being born a generation too late. But his work represents a profound engagement with the heart of poster graphics in their heyday, due to a family history heavily implicated in the world of illustration and the associated world of wealth and celebrity. He was born in a chateau-like residence erected by his maternal grandfather, near the chic resort of Deauville. His father was, as several generations of his family, a caricaturist for smart, satirical publications. Young Bernard encountered at Deauville celebrities of the art deco era and benefitted from sojourns at the family’s Paris residence. So it was that he enrolled in Paul Colin’s Graphics School in the early 1930s, and embarked on a career of advertising graphics that was not to hit its stride until after the Depression and World War II.

Drawing upon his ample opportunities to assimilate the rewarding powers of School of Paris painterly chic and Colin’s formidable savvy as to deco sensibility and how its seductions could be capitalized upon, Villemot eventually enjoyed great success in a work experience that closely replicated that of the pre-War stars of the genre. His series of posters showing Air France destinations brilliantly capture that tension between glamorous, delightful settings and a slightly troubling spaciousness, to be wondered at in the paintings of Albert Marquet.

Arguably the pinnacle of his accomplishments consisted in Matisse-inspired vignettes for Bally, Perrier, Orangina and other beverages.

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