Jules Chéret is widely recognized as the father of the artistic poster. He was the first to see the formerly commercial medium’s potential for creating original art.
Chéret created lithe, elegant figures for his advertisements known as cherettes, recalling the work of Rococo painters Jean-Antoine Watteau and Jean-Honoré Fragonard. He pioneered a bold, graphic style that led to a revolution among a new generation of artists, who grasped the power of color and created their own memorable images.
Eugène Grasset designed posters in a medieval style popularized by the Arts and Crafts movement in Britain. He favored jewel-toned colors, intense patterns, and black outlines that emulated stained glass.
Grasset’s talents extended beyond posters to encompass all of the decorative arts. He worked in a range of media, designing medieval-style furniture for the Chat Noir cabaret in Montmartre and imaginative compositions for wallpaper, tapestries, stained glass, ceramics, jewelry, and even postage stamps.
Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen was among the most prolific printmakers of the Belle Époque, reaching a wide cross-section of Parisian society through his work in posters, journals, and a host of other printed formats. In his 40-year career Steinlen produced an astounding 4,300 images, of which only 37 were posters.
His memorable design for Le Chat Noir, the Montmartre cabaret Steinlen frequented along with members of the Parisian avant-garde, is among the most iconic posters of the era.
Alphonse Mucha became a great success after actress Sarah Bernhardt, reigning queen of the Paris stage in the late nineteenth century, chose him as her favored designer.
More than any other poster designer of the period, Mucha’s work was iconic of the Art Nouveau style, with characteristic sinuous lines and subtle colors. Born in Moravia, now the Czech Republic, Mucha spent the last decades of his life exploring Slavic subjects in his art.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was a central figure in bohemian Montmartre’s nightlife scene. Lautrec’s ability to capture a believable likeness, often in the form of caricature, made him an ideal artist to depict French performers dependent upon recognition for box-office success. His sympathetic, even tender, depictions of marginalized performers and prostitutes, and his willful disregard for traditional rules of representation, resulted in some of the most memorable images of the period.