A recent trip to Cincinnati included a visit to the Taft Museum of Art. I had never visited the Taft, but had heard that it was a gem of a collection. And there was a special exhibition I wanted to see, L’Affichomania: The Passion for French Posters. The show features the work of artists Jules Chéret, Eugène Grasset, Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Alphonse Mucha, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec who all worked in Paris in the latter years of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth.
I especially loved how so many of the posters showed women ice skating and biking. This great poster, Palais de Glace, or Ice Palace is by Jules Chéret. It was an 1894 advertisement for an ice skating rink.
This poster for Marque Georges Richard was made in 1899 by Eugène Grasset. Although this poster is advertising the bicycle, the focus is on the woman and the open road in the background which beckons her.
It’s hard to imaging a more perfect example of Art Nouveau than this 1896 poster by Alphonse Mucha. This poster, Zodiac, was designed as the illustration of an advertising calendar for the firm that did his printing. This example does not have the advertising text as poster collectors were beginning to want copies without the ads. Many of the posters, most of which were designed as advertisements and were hung on kiosks and walls throughout Paris, were made both with and without the text.
This Mucha poster for Cycles Perfecta also highlights the woman over the bicycle. Even though she is at rest, her hair streams out as if blown by the wind, adding motion and excitement to the image.
In 1899 Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen made an image of the New Woman riding a motorized bicycle through the countryside. She calmly disperses the flock of geese as she journeys forth.
I’m breaking with the theme here, but this poster is just such a perfect depiction of greedy cats begging for a sip of milk. The little girl is Steinlen’s daughter Colette, and the family did have several cats. The poster is an ad for a dairy farm, Quillot Brothers.
Probably the best-known of the five artists is Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. I’m not a big fan of his, but I found this ad for La Revue Blanche (The White Magazine) to be quite nice. Even though her feet are not seen, it is likely that the woman is ice skating, at the Palais de Glace, perhaps. The forward angle of her body suggests movement, and the fur muff and matching coat suggests a skating costume.
And I’m finishing with a poster that is neither French nor sports themed. Also on display was a small grouping of posters printed in Cincinnati. This delightful poster advertises Prof Morris and his dog and pony show, circa 1880.
It was just too good not to share!
L’Affichomania: The Passion for French Posters will be showing at the Taft Museum of Art until September 15, 2019. Organized by Chicago’s Richard H. Driehaus Museum, the exhibition has more show dates around the USA. You can check here for the schedule.