The Dallas Museum of Art presents Posters of Paris: Toulouse-Lautrec and His Contemporaries, an exhibition exploring the earliest days of the affiche artistique (artistic poster) and its flowering in Paris, first under Jules Chéret in the 1870s and 1880s, and then with a new generation of artists including Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Pierre Bonnard. These artists brought the poster to new heights in the 1890s. On view October 14, 2012, through January 20, 2013, the exhibition brings together the finest French examples from the golden age of the poster.
“The Dallas Museum of Art is pleased to be one of only two venues to present these bold and captivating posters from Paris at the the turn of the 19th century,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, The Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art. “The exhibition presents a vast range of the best examples of the artistic posters that defined the city during the Belle Époque.”
Advertising everything from theater productions to the debaucherous cancan, and from bicycles to champagne, brightly hued, larger-than-life-size posters with bold typography and playful imagery adorned the streets of turn-of-the-century Paris. Posters of Paris features more than one hundred of these posters loaned from museums and private collections by artists hailed as masters of the medium. These artists drew from an array of styles including Byzantine, rococo, and art nouveau. The exhibition is organized into thematic groupings highlighting major themes, as well as prominent artists, in the medium. It opens with works by the “father of the poster,” Jules Chéret, showcasing the early designs of the artistic poster, followed by a series of iconic images from Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and closes with the end of the era with work by Leonetto Cappiello. Galleries will also be dedicated to the entertainment industry, including posters promoting performers Loïe Fuller and Sarah Bernhardt as well as popular cabarets and dance halls such as the Moulin Rouge and Le Chat Noir. Additional galleries will highlight the advertisement of periodicals, books, and newspapers; Salon des Cent exhibitions; and a number of consumer products, including an entire gallery dedicated to a popular new invention of the late 19th century, the bicycle.
“Art critics praised the artistic posters for giving Paris a free ‘museum for the masses’ that changed daily as new posters were pasted up,” said Heather MacDonald, The Lillian and James H. Clark Associate Curator of European Art at the Dallas Museum of Art, and curator of the Dallas presentation. “Vibrant, colorful posters covered the boulevards throughout Paris by the 1890s, transforming the way the public experienced advertising images during a shift in consumer culture after the birth of the department store. The content of Posters of Paris is surprisingly relevant to today’s viewers, who are living through a comparable transformation of the media landscape.”
Posters were so popular that collectors stole them from billboards almost as soon as they were pasted up. The term affichomanie (poster mania) was invented to describe the craze. New markets emerged to meet the demand; posters were both collectors’ items and fashionable home décor. Print dealers began selling posters, and publishers offered subscriptions to portfolios with the most popular images of the day in more manageable, reduced sizes. The public also sought posters for their collections that were originally censored and their altered designs approved for distribution; a few examples are presented in the exhibition. Posters that found their way into private homes eventually entered the collections of museums all over the world.
Featured at the end of the exhibition is an interactive educational area with learning tools and activities for all ages. Along with educational literature on turn-of-the-century Paris and the posters that embellished the streets, the educational area will explore color lithography through videos of the process, examples of tools used to create the prints, and a series of prints demonstrating color lithography from the University of Dallas. Visitors will be able to create their own affiche artistique inspired by the images found in Posters of Paris to take home or add to the exhibition exit poster wall, re-creating the plastered boulevards of Paris in the late 1800s.
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