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.  

Whereas the high degree of craft and reflection in the previous work does pose challenges to more simply ocular outreaches, the enterprise of more recent elicitation of audacity strikes us as rather troublesome. Alien, yes; but to what degree? Does this design attain to the spectacularly unique or spectacularly cosmetic? Or both?


How the black scale promotes the figure’s dovetailing with the surround. Terrence Malick deployed this design feature in his film, Knight of Cups (2015).


Harumi Yamaguchi was a leading Japanese illustrator in the punk-saturated 1970s. Her muted rebellion was largely confined to the Parco department store in Tokyo. But the precedent of the Paris Belle Epoque was still alive and kicking in her works.

So potent has that aforementioned era of going for broke become, contemporary purveyors of good-times products (like the one shown here) trust graphic documents showing the way it was, in their bid to bring it to bear once again!

You could call this a cool sensationalist Belle Epoque vintage poster!

Many doughty figures have been imagined here, the better to sustain a fabled place’s purchase upon the fabulous!

When taking a drive  took lots of nerve and a steely constitution! The modern world being an arena for proving you have what it takes!

Warpaint, seeking to shock and awe; but also seeking a new expansiveness where love might flourish.

A contemplative bent. Where do they go from there?

One reason for the strong popularity of movie posters is their staginess, their being at a breaking point we are induced to occupy.

A look that refuses to be earthbound!

Slick but also savvy enough to put everything into dynamics.

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This entry was posted in Art Deco Posters&Graphics, Art Nouveau/Belle Époque Posters&Graphics, Avant-Garde Posters&Graphics, Modernist Posters&Graphics, Poster&Graphic Art, Poster&Graphic Artists and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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