Today we consider, by way of introduction to be followed by later instalments, a design genre I hope to prompt you to investigate, because I’m convinced it comprises some of the most sophisticated, witty and exciting graphics ever produced.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, many designers and artists were eager to move beyond the rustic priorities of Art Nouveau mysteriousness. They could see the point of evoking the more urban, kinetic energies corresponding to increased industrial technology, and restiveness about ancient, antiquated ways of doing things. One way of communicating this form of energy was by crowning subtly conflicted vignettes with as electric a color palette as could possibly be marshalled.

That coloration consisted in the pochoir technique of hand coloration (by watercolors) of black lithographic outlining of a scene, as assisted further, in guiding the paintbrush, by stencil duplication of the various planes making up the composition.

A major exponent of pochoir design and its lushness which had become compelling was the fashion and belles-lettres journal, Gazette du Bon Ton (1912-1925). At this point we want to send your way a sample of the filmic sophistication there, that far transcends the pouting weighing down today’s fashion work, and also the delivery of color enhancement the verve and nuances of which are absolutely unique.

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