Interesting the French expression ‘à l affiche‘ – “on display” – from the word for poster, or notice (or playbill) … now used commonly to describe a film or other event currently ‘on the bill’ or happening.
Such as the caricature exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs I’ve wanted to see for weeks (and still on for weeks so get there if you can ) … a history of caricature poster art from the mid 19th century to early 20th … DE LA CARICATURE À L’AFFICHE 1850-1918.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take photos and the poster which summed up the meaning of the exhibition best for me, I can’t for the life of me find online, despite my well-honed web investigative skills.
The Maquette Comica, by the exhibition’s somewhat star, Leonetto Cappiello – or simply Cappiello – shows a quirky, animated character being ‘tickled’ by the caricaturists coloured pencils. Tickled – and prickled … for caricatures are intended above all else to tickle the senses … the imagination and the sensitivities. To awaken and to provoke.
The poster was achieved in 1907 like many of his works – a mix of charcoal crayon, gouache and pastel.
There are plenty of Cappiello’s other iconic works on display … A French-Italian artist, he is dubbed the ‘father of modern advertising’ according to Wiki but more the father of the ‘affiche moderne’ according to the French site dedicated to him.
Renowned for his innovation in the art of the caricature – his works (for chocolate and Cinzano, corsets and Michelin tyres, Parisian theatres and holiday fun) as much as they are varied – are readily identifiable – with their trademark bold colours, searing wit, surreal impish characters and dazzling forms.
According to the exhibition curator, Réjane Bargiel, poster art was in a bit of a doldrums at the time – with the disappearance of the great masters, Alphonse Mucha (who returned to Czechoslovakia), Jules Chéret (who switched career – to that of interior designer) and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who died in 1901. The ‘golden age’ of caricaturists was over … and the post-war renaissance (“led by Cubist inspired poster artists”) yet to happen.
In came Cappiello and his mates –a bunch of press caricaturists turned poster artists. And the fusion between the art of caricature and poster art reached a peak.
‘The “Poster Artists and Caricaturists” exhibition, comprised solely of works from the museum’s collection, retraces this period of poster history, showing its close links with the press and the political and economic contexts … ’ says the expo blurb.
Propaganda and the press too – beautifully captured in this following poster with the censor angel and his scissors.
In the 1920s, in the post-war era, came another war – the ‘war of the pencils’ – guerre des crayons … Les affiches, or posters were , according to the interpretation … “Instruments of propaganda intended for civilian audiences as a call for solidarity” …posted everywhere in efforts to raise post-war reconstruction funds. ‘These images …mix allegory, irony and stereotype’…
The exhibition helps cast a very strong and interesting light for me, as a journalist, on the relationship between the press and freedom of expression, and the press and propaganda.
“The caricaturists in the press were represented by the parodists; the satirists, the fantasists, the humorists etc.,” says another interpretation panel… Their work was limited not by their imaginations but public morals standards of what is acceptable … and by the censor’s ruthless scissors!
There’s such a variety on display … it’s not all about censorship and repression – or cynicism and send-up.
On a literary level – as one of the book-and-newspaper-loving public (and not just a Facebook and Instagram and online reading fan) … I love Adrien Barrere’s Le Monde Illustré poster below, designed in 1907 … I think Le Monde needs to think of doing the same – distributing books for free – to get public readership going again … of newspapers and books!
In the area of cutting (as in scathing) press expression, rather than the censor’s scissors – the Charlie Hebdo caricature “Sarko a besoin de vous” – a finger pointing spoof of Uncle Sam (I want you for the U.S Army) – is a favourite … But the censors seem to be at work again, as it has disappeared from the internet – or never made its way there.
In the end, it’s the lovely food and drink, and theatre and literary posters that win out for me … and Cappiello pretty much all the way. With his posters for Biscuits Pernot Fleur des Neiges, outrageous Folies Bergere (‘tous les soirs spectacle varié’ – “Every night a diverse show”.
And delightful Frou Frou – the dancing gal cover for a light-hearted but uppity 1900s Paris sorties weekly review .
The review’s name, meaning frilly or fancy, matched its agenda, summed up in its subtitle ‘Chronic of elegant life, theatre news, and international trends’ … or more elegantly put, in French, “échos du monde” – echoes of the world. (Frou Frou incidentally is also the name of an established French haberdashery store, as I say incidentally).
I’ve found a new idol. An artist and unspoken wit (tacit ironist) to boot. The Italians have done it to me again. Got me right there in the solar perplex of creative passion.
Oh, and I must get hold of some of these apparent “Régénérateurs du sang … (… et surtout in my case ) Tonique des nerfs” pictured below. The fabulous ‘Pink Pilules’ were all the rage in the early 1900s.
Not just to think pink it would seem but to feel it too. (Just looking at this Cappiello poster alone achieves that) …
I’m going to leave on this note though … Of the night lights at the Abbey and Benedictine-loving lamp carrier casting his light over the sacred liquor producing place.
I just love it … it conjures up so many childhood memories … innocence, fables, late night car journeys, fantastic places seen through windows … and more adult sweet (liquor induced) dreams.
Another sure way of feeling pink!