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Paris Posters at the DMA

Posters perfecta


If you lived in Paris in the 1870’s there was no iPhone. You couldn’t google your favorite group to see where they were playing or text your mates. So how did Parisians know whether to go to the Moulin Rouge or Le Chat on any given evening?  Posters were the answer, but Parisians called them affiche artistique .  Thankfully the world was not as green or electronic in those days, so we still have access to these delightful windows into the era and the Dallas Museum of Art has a wonderful exhibition, right now, highlighting this unique genre .

Paris Posters

Parisian posters began humbly enough, simple lithographs touting local bars, but a man named Jules Chéret made such eye-catching posters they eventually became an art form.  Talouse-Lautrec is perhaps the most famous of the affiche artistique gang and his status as a member of the aristocracy gave the genre a certain je ne sais quoi.  Before long, poster collectors were so avid about collecting that the best ones were taken down by fans before the glue even dried.

As much as Parisians enjoyed the posters, there were a few problems.  If you had one, then someone had probably stolen it from somewhere.  Though that may have given the whole thing a certain buzz in some circles, your average nice guy didn’t want to have stolen posters on the living room wall.  Enter the entrepreneurial spirit.  Gallery owners started paying the poster-makers to whip up a few extra copies of the more popular types of posters.  That seemed to satisfy people somewhat, but most of posters of the era were about night club entertainers, so that wasn’t quite nice either.  Since lithography is a multi-step process, the galleries started requesting copies of the poster sans paroles , without words.  Problem solved.

But that brought along a whole new problem.  Remember when My Space was cool?  But then everybody got in on the act and the cool people moved to twitter.  (And now they’re probably someplace else, but I’m not cool enough to know where.)  Well, the same thing happened to posters.  Poster artists started creating posters that had nothing to do with what was on at the Folies Bergere.  You too could afford to buy an affordable poster for your living room wall a la The Bradford Exchange or Thomas Kinkade Collectibles.

Once the eclat was gone, posters became the province of the mundane.  Bicycles, cigarette papers, biscuits…any old product could be advertised with an  affiche artistique.  The style is familiar even today, but the panache is gone.  However, there’s still magic in the work of those early poster artists, so don’t miss the opportunity to visit the DMA before January 20, 2013.

An Interesting Connection

For my faithful blog followers, you’ll remember my visit to the Maryhill Museum of Art when I was touring Oregon (and stepped over into Washington for a few hours).  I said it was one of the best museums you’d never heard of.  Well, it had an interesting link to this DMA exhibit.  One of the women friends of Sam Hill, instrumental in turning his abandoned building project into a museum, was Folies Bergere dancer, Loie Fuller.  Ms. Fuller figured large in the DMA exhibit, just as she did on the walls of the Maryhill.

A few more things while I’m talking art in the DFW Metroplex.  Chihully has been extended at the Dallas Arboretum until the end of December.  The Chinese Lantern Festival has been extended past the fair, until January 6, 2013.   The Dead Sea Scrolls will be in Fort Worth until January 13, 2013.  And while you’re at the DMA, visit Klyde Warren Park.  If you miss any of these you’re really missing access to some pretty spectacular stuff!