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CHARLES MAT LACK. PRJCE. '"

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"LIFE IS HARD ENOUGH FOR POOR MORTALS, WITHOUT HAVING IT INDEFINITELY EMBITTERED FOR THEM BY BAD ART."

Robert Louis Stevenson.

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LAIT PUR DE LA VINGEANNE

Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen

(1894)

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A Ci< OF

STUD1 Ui- 'I BE DEVELOPMENT ^ DESIGN IN CONTINENTAL rNGLAs^D AND AMERICA, BY

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POSTERS

A CRITICAL STUDY OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF POSTER DESIGN IN CONTINENTAL EUROPE, ENGLAND AND AMERICA, BY

CHARLES MATLACK PRICE

Illustrated with Forty-two Reproductions in Color AND One Hundred and Twenty

IN Monotone

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GEORGE W. BRICKA

New York, 1913

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Copyrighted, 19 13 By George W. Bricka

This Book is Very Sincerely

Dedicated to

W. S. P. and K. F. D. P.

lA-W^SONlZf^

JUL 9 2002

1/BRARlE.S^

Foreword IX

FOREWORD.

In the preparation of this book the author was prompted by various considerations, and in its presentation has endeavored to give to these several considerations their proper relative importance.

While the book is designed to possess a certain historical value, it is intended primarily to develop an accurate, intelligent, comprehensive and basic critical analysis of poster design in Europe and America.

The illustrations, covering the entire range of significant posters to the present date, have been selected and arranged with much care, and with an idea of showing the underlying principles involved in poster-design with the greatest clearness, and only by examples which are the best from the greatest number of points of excellency, taking into consideration the several elements entering into their design.

It has seemed advisable not to confuse the purely sesthetic and psychological principles of design with any considerations of technical points relating to the actual details of painting, or with points relating to mechani- cal processes of reproduction and the like. These no less important practi- cal considerations of the subject may be better presented in books devoted entirely to such matters.

A co-relative motive in the selection of the illustrations of the book has also been the desire to preserve, in a permanent and convenient form, many interesting and excellent posters which are hard to obtain, or of inconvenient bulk to preserve.

Many of the illustrations have been secured with considerable dif- ficulty, some, indeed, being of a scarcity which makes their acquisition quite Impossible to-day. In addition to these, It Is my pleasure, owing to the generous co-operation of certain designers, to Include some hitherto unpublished drawings.

X Foreword

In the matter of the actual size of the reproductions, as they appear, it may be stated at the outset that a poster design is successful or poor regardless of its actual size. The actual dimensions of a poster form its most superficial part, and for this reason I have adhered to a more or less uniform size for the illustrations. The design, not the size, makes the poster, and as considerations of design form the basis of the book, an element so purely arbitrary and unessential as size may be disregarded. The titles of all posters reproduced in the book will be printed in italics, for convenience in reference.

I take this opportunity to express my thanks for courteous assist- ance rendered me by Mr. F. D. Casey of "Collier's Weekly," Mr. E. S. Duneka of "Harper's Magazine," Mr. J. H. Chapin of "Scribner's Maga- zine," Mr. E. S. Rounds of the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company, Mr. Edward Pearson Chapman, Mr. Earnest Elmo Calkins, Mr. Bruce Ed- wards, Mr. Guernsey Moore, Mr. Robert J. Wildhack, Mr. Adolph Treid- ler, Mr. Edward Penfield, Mr. Hamilton King, Mr. Walter Primley, Mr. Julian E. Garnsey, and Miss Helen Dryden. For valuable suggestions in the preparation of this volume, Mr. H. Calkins, Jr., of Stewart and Company, Publishers. I wish also to express my indebtedness to the fol- lowing European and American lithographers and printers: Imp. Chaix, Imp. Lemercie, Imp. F. Champenois, Imp. C. H. Verneau, Imp. Edw. Ancourt, Grafia, Schon & Maison, G. Schuh & Cie., Metropolitan Print- ing Company and the Miner Lithographic Company.

In conclusion, I would say that it has been my sincere endeavor to

present a collection of thoroughly interesting and significant illustrations,

with pertinent text to form a definitive treatise in a field where no work of

the kind has hitherto appeared or is now available.

C. Matlack Price. NEVi7 York, September, 1912.

Contents XI

CONTENTS Foreword . ........ ix

Chapter I. Posters:

The subject in general. Points regarding poster design. The use of color. Psychological impressions. Scale. Some general rules illustrated by reproductions of posters by Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Jules Cheret, Robert J. Wildhack, Tom Hall and Earl Horter. Pages 3-17

Chapter II. The Work of Jules Cheret :

The French Poster as exemplified by the work of Jules Cheret illustrated with reproductions of typical examples of his work.

Pages 21-43

Chapter III. Posters Continental and English:

A comprehensive survey of poster design, paying special attention to national characteristics France; the work of Theophile-Alex- andre Steinlen, Alphonse Mucha, Eugene Grasset, Henri de Toul- ouse-Lautrec, Pierre Bonnard, George Meunier, Lucien Metivet, A. Cossard, Jean Paleologue, and others. England; the de- velopment of poster design as exemplified by the work of Frederick Walker, Aubrey Beardsley, Walter Crane, R. Anning Bell, the "Beggarstaff Brothers," J. W. Simpson, Gordon Craig, Dudley Hardy, Maurice Greiffenhagen, J. Hassall, and Will Owen. Germany; the modern poster; the work of Ludwig Hohlwein, George Tippel, Otto Obermeier, "P.K.S." Hans Flato and others. Belgium; the steamship posters of H. Cassiers. Italy; typical examples. Switzerland ; the "Societe Suisse d'Affiches Artistiques." Spain; the slow development of the art; the modern work of "Marco" and others. Hungary; note on the work of four de-

XII Contents

signers. Russia; the genius of Leon Bakst. Japan; poster values in Japanese art; an example by Toyokuni, and recent work of Yoshio Markino. Pages 47-145

Chapter IV. American Posters:

The growth of poster design in America. The dominance of the mechanical over the artistic. The work of Will H. Bradley, Ed- ward Penfield, Frank Hazenplug, W. Carqueville, J. J. Gould, Ernest Haskell, Louis Rhead, Maxfield Parrish, Robert J. Wild- hack, The Leyendecker Brothers, Louis Fancher, George Brehm, Adolph Treidler, M. C. Perley, Adrian Gil Spear, Walter Fawcett, and others. Pages 149-227

Chapter V. The Work of Edv^^ard Penfield :

A critical analysis of the work of Mr. Penfield paying particular attention to the development of his style. Illustrated with many rare examples. Pages 231-271

Chapter VI. American Theatrical Posters :

The theatrical poster in America. Some of the obstacles in the way of good work. Representative examples by Henry Mayer, F. G. Cooper, Hamilton King, Blendon Campbell, Ernest Haskell, Jean Paleologue, Clarence Tilt and others. Pages 275-307

Chapter VII. Some Magazine Covers:

A critical and comparative study of the poster values of certain recent magazine covers by Edward Penfield, Maxfield Parrish, J. J. Gould, Guernsey Moore, The Leyendecker Brothers, Robert J. Wildhack, John Cecil Clay and Adolph Treidler. Pages 311-365

Chapter VIII. The Capacity of the Poster:

Some concluding theories with regard to the finer points involved in the conception and analysis of poster design. Pages 369-379

Index ......... Page 383

List of Illustrations XIII

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Lait Pur de la Vingeanne, By Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen. Frontis- piece YvETTE GuiLBERT. By Jules Cheret . . . . .11

Scribner's Magazine Poster. By Robert J. Wildhack . . 15

McClure's Magazine Poster. By Tom Hall and Earl Horter . 17 Coulisses de l'opera. By Jules Cheret ..... 23

Theatre de l'opera, Carnaval. By Jules Cheret ... 27 Palais de Glace. By Jules Cheret . . . 29, 31

La Danse Du Feu, Folies-Bergere. By Jules Cheret . . 35

Job Papier a Cigarettes. By Jules Cheret .... 39

DiAPHANE Rice Powder. By Jules Cheret . . . -41

Saxoleine Petrole. By Jules Cheret ..... 43

YvETTE GuiLBERT. By Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen ... 49 Exposition a la Bodiniere. By Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen . 51 Medee. By Alphonse Mucha ...... 55

Gismonda. By Alphonse Mucha ...... 57

La Samaritaine. By Alphonse Mucha . . . . -59

Salon Des Cent. By Alphonse Mucha . . . . .61

Job. By Alphonse Mucha . . . .... St,

Divan Japonais. By Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec ... 65 Yvette GuiLBERT, A Sketch. By Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec . 66 Jeanne d'arc. By Eugene Grasset ..... 69

La Revue Blanche. By Pierre Bonnard . . . 71

Job Papier a Cigarettes. By George Meunier ... 73 A La Place Clichy. By A. Cossard . . . . = 75

Ballet. By Jean Paleologue ....... 77

The Woman in White. By Frederick Walker . . . -78

Bodley Head. By Aubrey Beardsley . . . .81

The Yellow Book. By Aubrey Beardsley .... 83

Don Quixote. By the "Beggarstaff Brothers" .... 84

Hau and Company Champagne. By Walter Crane ... 87

XIV

List of Illustrations

By Ludwig

Liverpool Art School. By R. Anning Bell

Becket. By the "Beggarstaff Brothers" .

Book of Bookplates. By J. W. Simpson .

A Masque of Love. By Gordon Craig .

A Gaiety Girl. By Dudley Hardy .

The Follies. By J. Hassall ....

Lux Soap. By Will Owen ....

Pall Mall Budget. By Maurice Grelffenhagen

Bosch Magneto. By "P. K. S." .

St. Benno Bier. By Otto Obermeier

Hermann Scherrer, Tailor. By Ludwig Hohlwein

Boll's Kindergarderobe. By Ludwig Hohlwein

Johann LuDVi'iG Ranniger & SoHNE Handschuhe

Hohlwein Snovi' Fantasy. By Georg Tippel Some Sketches. By Hans Flato Lost. By Hans Flato . American Line. By H. Cassiers Red Star Line. By H. Cassiers BiANCHi Automobile. Anonymous Monaco. Anonymous

Berner Oberland Wintersport. Anonymous En Flandes se ha Puesto El Sol. By Marco Programme Officiel des Ballets Russes. By Leon Bakst Japanese Theatrical Poster. By Toyokuni . Autumn. By Yoshio Markino The Chicago Sunday Tribune. By Will Bradley The Chap Book. By Will Bradley The Echo. By Will Bradley Victor Bicycles. By Will Bradley The Poster Calendar. By Edward Penfield . The Chap Book. By Frank Hazenplug . Lippincott's Magazine Poster. By Will Carqueville

1 1

155

89 91 93 95 97 99

lOI

103 107 109 I, 113 115

117 119 121 123 127 131 133 135 137 139 141

143 145 151

153 157 159 1S3 167 169

List of Illustrations

XV

Century Magazine Poster. By Louis Rhead .... Lippincott's Magazine Posters. By J. J. Gould . 173, 175 Century Midsummer Holiday Poster. By Maxfield Parrish Scribner's Magazine Poster. By Maxfield Parrish Ivory Soap. By J. C. Leyendecker .

Century Midsummer Holiday Poster. By J. C. Leyendecker Arrow Collars. By J. C. Leyendecker . The Pierce Arrow. By J. C. Leyendecker The Pierce Arrow. By Robert J. Wildhack . Scribner's Magazine Poster. By Robert J. Wildhack Century Magazine Poster. By Robert J. Wildhack The Circular Staircase. By Robert J. Wildhack Sketches. By Robert J. Wildhack . Arrow Collars. By George Brehm Scribner's Magazine Poster. By Louis Fancher Exhibition of Advertising Art. By Walter Fawcett A Corner of the Studio. By Adolph Treldler Exhibition Poster. By Adolph Treidler Alice. By Adolph Treidler . The Pierce Arrow. By Adolph Treidler Ali Ebn Becar. By Adolph Treidler The Pierce Arrow. By Gil Spear . Cigarette Fanchez. By M. C. Perley . Vanderbilt Cup Race. Anonymous Edward Penfield, His Book. By Edward Penfield Harper's Magazine Posters. By Edward Penfield 233, 237, 241,

245, 247, 249, 251, 253, 255, 257, Cover Design of "Holland Sketches." By Edward Penfield . Holland Sketches. By Edward Penfield Silhouettes. By Edward Penfield . A Spanish Impression. By Edward Penfield A Stenciled Calendar. By Edward Penfield Bessie McCoy. By Clarence Tilt .

171 177 181

183 185

187 189

191

195 197 199

201 203 205 207 208 213 215 217 219 221 223 225 227 230

259 261 263, 265 267 269 271 277

XVI

List of Illustrations

Follies of 1910. By Hy Mayer . The Soul Kiss. By Hy Mayer . Bright Eyes. By Edgar Kellar . The Pink Lady. By Hamilton King Monte Carlo Girl. By Hamilton King . Maude Adams. By Blendon Campbell . Ethel Barrymore. From a Photograph Mabel Taliaferro. By Ernest Haskell . Miniature Minstrel Mimics. By F. G. Cooper Spirit Land. By F. G. Cooper Theatrical Posters. By F. G. Cooper . Valeska Suratt. By Jean Paleologue .

281 283 287 289 291 295 297 299 301

303 305 307

Collier's Weekly Covers. By Edward Penfield, 313, 315, 319, 321, 323 Saturday Evening Post Cover. By Edward Penfield . -317

Metropolitan Magazine Covers. By Edward Penfield . 325, 327 Saturday Evening Post Cover. By J. J. Gould and G. Moore . 331 Saturday Evening Post Covers. By "Peter Fountain" . . 333

Collier's Weekly Covers. By Guernesy Moore . . 335, 337

Saturday Evening Post Covers. By Guernesy Moore . . 339

McClure's Magazine Cover. By F. X. Leyendecker . . 343

Magazine Covers. By J. C. Leyendecker .... 345 Collier's Weekly Cover. By J. C. Leyendecker . . . 347

Judge Bohemian Number. By J. C. Leyendecker . . . 349

Collier's Weekly Covers. By Maxfield Parrish . 353' 355> 357 Collier's Weekly Cover. By Robert J. Wildhack . . . 361

Collier's Weekly Cover. By Adolph Treidler . . 3^3

Dramatic Mirror. By John Cecil Clay . . . . 3^5

The Great Arrow. By Edward Penfield .... 371

Eugenie Buffet. By Lucien Metivet ..... 375 Dans La Rue. By Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen . . . 377

CHAPTER ONE

THE SUBJECT IN GENERAL

Chap. I POSTERS

CHAPTER I.

The Subject in General

Although the poster stands where all who run may read, and al- though we spontaneously admire, or thoughtlessly condemn it, few ever stop to formulate a reason for doing the one or the other, or to establish a critical working standpoint in the matter.

Most people honestly and kindly refrain from random criticism of etchings or Japanese prints for obvious reasons, but consider, perhaps not entirely without cause, that since the poster is literally thrown in their faces, they have a natural right to discuss it even from entirely superficial viewpoints. Nor is it going too far to say that the principles underlying the design of a good poster are no less subtle, or less dependent upon purely abstract tenets of Art, than are the principles underlying the design of a good etching or a good Japanese print.

The poster design must have a clear simplicity of motive and a vigorous, sometimes bizarre, conception In design and treatment. It is to be supposed that until a few years ago the artist or designer considered himself above his task when he was working on these "advertisements," and failed to produce a successful poster because he failed to realize that he was engaged either In a difficult problem, or In one worthy of his best efforts. It was left to the French to show the world how much of beauty and of inspiration could enter Into the poster, and it was many years before the designing world at large earned Its lesson (if Indeed, it may yet be said to have learned) from the daring, sparkling sheets of flaming color that have decorated the streets of Paris.

4 THE SUBJECT IN GENERAL Chap.l

And this elusive, subtle entity the poster seems almost to defy definition and to baffle analysis. It is so meteoric, so explosive, that only in disjointed paragraphs can it be suggested.

Hamilton King, who stands with those at the head of poster design in America, has epitomized some essentials in expressing his theories, the grasp of these essentials, however, being the result of unusu- ally intelligent and appreciative studies in France.

He says that the poster should "seize a moment exploit a situa- tion with one daring sweep of the pencil or brush. The poster is not a portrait, nor a study it is an impression a flash of line, a sweep of color ... all that can be told of a tale in the passing of an instant. It is dramatic and imaginative, yet it is saliently sincere."

Often it verges upon the caricature, always it is exaggerated, and it is by no means marred by a touch of humor in conception or treatment, though this should always combine unmistakable refinement with a certain degree of subtlety.

The poster must first catch the eye, and having caught it, hold the gaze, and Invite further though brief Inspection. The advertisement which Is Its reason for existence must be conveyed directly, clearly and pictorlally. It must be well designed, well colored, well printed and well drawn and these qualifications are stated In their order of Importance. Above all, the design chic, bizarre, an Inspiration a flash of thought in the brain-pan, flaring up In a blaze of line and color, however short-lived. It should be pyrotechnic, and should depend for Its impression, like a rocket, upon the rushing flight of its motion, and the brilliant, even if momentary, surprise of its explosion.

Unquestionably our greatest mistake, next to our failure to take it seriously enough, is to take it too seriously.

A great many points enter into the consideration of poster design,

Chap. I POSTER DESIGN 5

and so intangible, to a certain extent, are the motives in a successful poster that perhaps a negative enumeration is a more graphic method of analysis than any other.

By an understanding of certain principles to be avoided, and an elimination of these; the more essential, though often elusive, must remain in greater clearness, and many examples may be rejected at a glance, leav- ing a narrower field to consider, and a range capable of a more definite form of analysis.

Broadly, one would say, avoid three distances, masses of small letters, or too many letters of any kind, too elaborate a chiaroscuro, too intricate detail, and ill-studied values in shade and shadow. Although many of these dangerous motives may appear in good and successful posters, one will observe that they appear usually in the work of men capable of handling them with a compelling and masterful hand. Certainly their avoidance is more than a mere matter of discretion.

The safer course lies in simplicity, since the simplest poster is always the most effective, though obvious as this paradox may seem, it is ignored in nine cases out of ten.

Capitulating the above points, it must always be kept in mind that a poster, as such, is a failure if it is not effective, and the obvious deduction from this is that anything likely to detract from the effect is plainly dan- gerous, and to be handled with the greatest care.

In the first place, the use of more than one distance, or picture- plane, implies perspective, and in many cases, a background. The action in a poster should take place at the front of the stage, preferably as though thrown on a screen; and as a background necessarily introduces objects too small to be readily understood at a distance, it is very likely to confuse the principal figure in the composition, and render the principal letters the raison d'etre of the thing more or less difficult to read.

6 THE SUBJECT IN GENERAL Chap. 1

Distances, if introduced at all must be suggested rather than definitely drawn, and must in any case be thoroughly subordinate to the main action. Thus manipulated, they do not detract from the strength of the composi- tion, and the question and occasional value of their uses is taken up. from a more theoretical standpoint later. It will be seen, however, that a back- ground appears in none of the illustrations of this chapter, and it may be said that these were selected as examples of thoroughly successful posters.

In the second place, with regard to lettering; masses of small let- ters are not only useless, being illegible except at close range, but tend to confuse the composition, and detract from the importance of the principal figures, and the general clearness of the conception. The same, in part, may be said of too much lettering of any kind. One must not stop to read a poster it must be seen and understood in its entirety at a glance.

Incidentally, it should be remembered that lettering arranged vertically one letter under another, is quite inexcusable, though many designers thoughtlessly stand words on end in a deluded groping for originality which they have vaguely felt to be lacking in the main design of the poster. While Egyptian and Chinese characters were intended to be read in columns, Roman letters have always been arranged in horizontal lines, and quite putting aside the unpardonable anachronism of arranging them in any other way, the offence against legibility alone should strike one Immediately.

With regard to unity of principal motive and lettering a most important point It Is rather difficult to make rules to which ample excep- tion may not be taken. Generally speaking, the best poster is one in which the figure or keynote Is a unit with the letters the one entirely lost with- out the other. This has been almost invariably achieved In the work of M. Cheret, and Mr. Penfield.

It must not be supposed that this unity necessarily implies an

Chap. I THEUSEOFCOLOR 7

actual incorporation of figure and legend, desirable as such an arrangement is; it is rather a question of relative scale, and mistalces in both directions are common. Generally, the mass, the telling quantity of the poster, utterly outweighs the lettering, which suffers eclipse, in consequence, and tends to make the whole rather an "advertising picture" than a poster. Sometimes the noise of the lettering drowns the action of the principal figure, though this is far more rare than the first. Either will readily be conceded to be most unfortunate as well as unnecessary, if only one weigh the relative values of the two members in the prehminary sketch.

In this connection it seems important at the outset to cultivate a keen discrimination between "Posters" proper, and "Advertising Pic- tures." The first form the subject of this book the second must, for obvious reasons, be rejected. There is no limit to this class, for any pic- ture, of whatever kind, may have a line of advertising tacked to it (or as readily taken away) , the whole presenting a sheet in which no element of original design has entered, and which attracts, or fails to attract solely by reason of the intrinsic interest or stupidity of the picture, as such.

In the third general rule, regarding an elaborate system of light and shade, or much intricate detail, it is obvious that much of its value is wasted on a poster, and not only becomes lost when seen across a street, but has a tendency to produce a monotone in mass a fatal defect where a strikingly unbalanced composition is so essential. Good posters of elaborate chiaroscuro or detail are good in spite of it not because of it.

Color in posters, relatively speaking, is not nearly so important as design, and it may be said that while bad coloring cannot seriously mar a good design, good coloring will not save a poor design. One has seen excellent posters in black and white, and wretched posters in "six colors and gold." The ideal poster will present, of course, a strong, impulsive design, in bold and dashing lines, and its story will be told in a "sweep of line and

8 THE SUBJECT IN GENERAL Chap. I

a flash of color." Nor should it be forgotten that it is not the number of colors used, but rather their selection and disposition that count. In the matter of poster-coloring, the work of M. Cheret shows a master-hand, nor can his schemes be said to be based on any theoretical scales of har- mony. If any theory existed at all, it was that a sensation of surprise, a mental shock, must be produced even at the risk of violent chromatic dis- cords. His favorite trio red, yellow and blue, in their most vivid inten- sities, recklessly placed next each other, invariably strike a clarion note and make a good poster.

A fundamental principle embracing all initial paradoxes of design, and one perhaps more important than anything in the conception of a successful poster, concerns itself with a question of scale.

With regard to this element. It may be said that a design will make a good or a poor poster whether It be a book-plate, or a six-sheet fence- placard. Mere size, mere superficial area, will not save a weak poster, v/ere it magnified a hundred times, while a book-plate or a magazine-cover may fulfil the severest test, point by point, as a good piece of poster-work.

A book-shop, indeed, has often attracted one across the street by reason of the strength of design in certain book-covers, of the foreign, paper-bound variety, in the window, while the average theatrical poster occupying a space ten feet by twenty has not caused any sensation of Inter- est, either optical or mental.

This matter of scale should be constantly borne in mind, and the discerning eye will readily appreciate strong "poster-values" In many small yet striking instances.

Perhaps the clearest illustration of exactly what underlies this "scale" so essential to a good poster, is to consider the sense-impression given by the familiar Egyptian mortuary statuette of Osiris. This figure is never more than twelve Inches in height, and is usually much less, yet the

Chap. I PSYCHOLOGICAL IMPRESSIONS g

distinct impression of scale given by its subtle proportions is that of a colossus. The analogy in a poster is the understanding that something larger than the drawing itself must be suggested. In fine, it is a sense of "suggestive proportion" which will make a figure four feet high seem life-size, or a figure at life-size suggest an idea larger than the actual boundaries of the paper. This idea is as absolutely essential and equally as elusive as are all the most vital points underlying the conception of a design which shall possess the best poster-values.

As a concluding generality it is eminently important to remember that there are two distinct kinds of impression, and that as the success of the poster depends upon the kind of impression it makes, we should keenly understand these two great divisions.

There are a group of impressions which are arrived at by processes of the mind, and an equally large group which are arrived at by processes of the senses. The first we reach by memory, by connotation, by logic, by comparison, or by any other process peculiar to the human mind. The second is generally stronger, and is instantaneous and vivid, and though it may partake of certain properties of the first, any borrowed quality has become so much a matter of instinct as to bring the mind into very little play.

It is obvious that it is to the second of these groups of impressions that the poster should be tuned. It should not be a matter for elaborate study, or comprehension through comparison, but should make its story felt instinctively by the senses. It should be different from a picture in exactly the same way that a play is different from a book the one appeal- ing primarily through the senses, the other through the mind.

Perhaps the clearest working rudiments that can be reached, after a study of fundamental theories, are to be had graphically, by a careful analysis of the illustrations in this chapter, taken point by point, and capitu-

10 THE SUBJECT IN GENERAL Chap. I

lating the features happily conspicuous by their absence, as well as those which go to make the posters successful.

In M. Steinlen's milk poster* can be seen what may be made of an essentially simple and possibly uninteresting theme. "Pure milk from Vingeanne" what more unsuggestive or even banal? And yet for charm of conception, simplicity of motive and strength of execution, it were difficult to find a more thoroughly successful poster. The action is clear, the presentation graphic, and the whole, in line and color, undeniably strong.

M. Steinlen has not confused the eye or mind with any distances or elaborate flights of draughtsmanship. His story is vigorously and strongly told, at the front of the stage, with a compelling charm that holds this poster in the mind long after it has gone from sight. With the exception of the lettering, the poster was immortalized in a set of nursery tiles " a bright-haired, demure little girl, with a sweet and guileless face and crim- son frock, drinking milk from a bowl, impatiently beset by three envious, aspiring, hopeful cats . . . "

In the poster for "Yvette Guilbert," by Jules Cheret, one may see a no less excellent presentation of values than in the example by M. Stein- len, though the two designs are obviously conceived along different lines. One Is full of vivacious superficiality the other of demure reserve. Granted, there has been only one Cheret of his work more shall be said later; the immediate consideration being an analysis of this sparkling sketch of Mile. Yvette Guilbert as a poster.

*The illustrations in this chapter on initial essentials are not selected with a view to any classification by period or nationality, the basis being simply an aim to present certain fundamental theories in the clearest and most direct wav.

CONCERf^PARlSIEN

TotiMesSoirsalOtleures

YVETTE GUILBERT

Jules Cheret

Chap. I SPECIFIC INSTANCES

First, it is simple. Second, its story is told in a simultaneous flash of three impressions. The eye is attracted, with an irresistible sense of elation, however momentary, to the chic, joyous figure of a very prepossess- ing singer, and at the same instant, and with no conscious effort, it may be learned not only who she is but where she may be seen, and at what hour. The whole story in the fraction of a second nothing to be deciphered, studied, or left to run the risk of being overlooked.

The whole poster has been seen, the whole reason for its existence made manifest in a flash but the impression of pleasure, and one might almost say of irresponsibility in the matter is more lasting. It is a good poster.

And let It be reiterated, at the risk of repetition ; there is no back- ground, no elaborate detail, no masses of confusing and irrelevant lettering, nor any single line or motive that has not been seen and comprehended in its entirety in the first passing glance.

In Mr. Wildhack's "September Scribner's" magazine poster, it might be said that the height of poster design in America has been reached. It were hard to conceive the possibility of so simple, yet so strong a sugges- tion of a potential reality at a single glance.

This poster flares from a magazine stand, and carries with it a group of physical sensations as instantaneous as they are irresistible. One knows that it is summer, that it is very warm, with the sun almost over- head, and that one is on a sea-beach. The vista of dismal city streets is lost for the moment, and one feels almost grateful to this bit of colored paper for its vacation suggestions. And yet how little of actual delinea- tion the mind has to feed upon in this poster. The secret lies in an ap- parently unerring conception, on the part of the designer, of the psychology of the thing. The essentials have been thrown into the limelight, to the

14 THE SUBJECT IN GENERAL Chap. I

exclusion of confusing detail. No sea, no horizon, no summer pavilion have been crowded in. One knows that a flat monotone of fine-textured grey, in the blinding, shadeless out-of-doors, is a beach. That a girl in spotless white would not be standing in a desert, is an idea which is grasped and dismissed in the first registration of thought between eye and mind. The conception, indeed, is so instinctive as to be instantaneous and to involve no mental effort. The downward shadow makes the sun almost a physical as well as an optical sensation. The masterful distinction, as well as the delineation of shade and shadow were worthy of a scientist as much as an artist. As to the actual charms of the lady the Venus of Milo has not many reincarnations to-day, and It Is safe to say that a poster Is more con- vincing, and strikes nearer home. If It Is not too idealistic. Even If It plays to the gallery, none may gainsay its right to do so, since It comes into our midst unasked, and tries to please us by Its simplicity and naivete. When one asks for bread, he does not want a stone, and desiring a fellow human being, does not want a statue. To complete the chain of absolute appropriateness, borne out by the name of the month and the name of the magazine, the latter Is depicted no less saliently and graphically than the former; and the entire poster is eminently sufficient unto itself, borrowing no unexplained motive in its delineation, and leaving no unexplained motive to breed conjecture beyond its Doundarles.

Perhaps less subtle, but certainly no less striking from the point of values, is the "Ellen Terry" poster, announcing with distinct strength the fact that the feature of the magazine for this month was to be an Install- ment of the Memoirs of Miss Ellen Terry. This poster is the result of clever collaboration on the part of Tom Hall, who designed It, and of Earl Horter who drew It, and the general scarcity of their work is equalled only by the excellence of this particular example.

WILDHACK-

^*-r„

w

'^''(^

SCRIBNER'S

Ef^BER

Courtesy of Scribner's Magazine.

SCRIBNER'S MAGAZINE POSTER Robert J. Wildhack (1906)

15

Id THE SUBJECT IN GENERAL Chap. I

It seems pertinent to comment on its strong theatrical qualities, and to suggest that this magazine poster has audaciously invaded another ter- ritory and triumphantly captured the laurels which seem to be so per- sistently neglected by the stage. For it presents such excellent points of simplicity in motive with unbalanced composition, adequate lettering, bold coloring, refined caricature in the short-hand portrait, and general self- sufficiency throughout, that were it to appear on a theatrical bulletin it would strike a loud and bracing note in that monotone of mediocrity, and mark an epoch, as it were, in the colorless and characterless annals of theatrical "paper."

And with all the points which one has tried to bring up in this chap- ter, a more critical analysis can be brought to bear upon the following consideration of French, English, Continental and American Posters.

,t<

■iiii.'V;';

iilil^i#:fittr;

o/ Ellen Terry

in the October

M^ CLURE .5

Courtesy of McClure's Magazine.

McCLURE'S MAGAZINE POSTER Tom Hall and Earl Horter (1907)

17

CHAPTER TWO

THE WORK OF JULES CHERET

Chap. II JULESCHERET 21

CHAPTER II.

The Work of Jules Cheret.

In electing to submit the work of Jules Cheret before entering upon any general discussion of posters in France, one has been impelled by the fact that his work is illustrative of so many points of excellency in this art that a review of it partakes largely of qualities of a general nature. These posters are all so excellent in so many particulars they are all so full of that elusive element of audacity so desirable in a poster, that an analysis can point to no defects or express regret for no details of their composition.

Cheret is utterly original, generally subversive, and sometimes al- most exasperating in an audacity which throws all precedent to the winds, and launches lightly clad female figures, floating in space ephemeral as so many soap-bubbles, sparkling, iridescent, and explosive. They seem evoked from airy nothingness, born of daring and fantastic gaiety, and seem joyously to beckon the beholder on with them in a madcap, .elusive chase after pleasure. Nor do they ever overstep the proprieties, for they never come to earth, and their radiant fairy grace, startling and provocative pos- tures and actions seem hardly to belong to mere pictures.

Cheret lives "in a sort of fairy world, where playful summer light- ning is not unknown. His airy figures of women and children float in space, and so gracious are they as types of happiness that they seem to live in an irradiation,"

It has been said that to describe his work adequately we must needs "borrow from this decorator certain of his colors a lemon yellow.

22 JULES CHERET Chap. II

a geranium red and a midnight blue, and even then we should lack the cunning of the artist so to juxtapose these as to reproduce his effects." Obviously, his work appears at a disadvantage in monotone reproduction, though his wonderfully living line and frantically bold compositions tell their own story and present values which are painfully lacking in the most ambitious chromatic attempts on our own bill-boards.

In motive, Cheret almost invariably chooses a girl for his central figure; in action, he always makes her flashing with life, sparkling with a naive irresponsibility, and a very impersonation of chic.

"Yvette Guilbert" has vivacity in the mere curve of her eyebrow, Loie Fuller is joyously balanced in an aerial fire-dance at the "Folies Ber- gere" and the lady of the "Job" cigarette paper sketch seems lingering but an instant to fling some bit of gay raillery over her shoulder before she disappears. The motion in the "Palais de Glace" posters needs only the music to which the care-free skaters disport themselves, gracefully bal- anced like birds on the wing, or with tantalizing smile and beckoning arm, enticing the beholder to join them, while the ballet in the "Coulisses de I'Opera" is instinct with life and grace in every line. And with Cheret, it need not necessarily be the delineation of action or personality in his sub- ject, for what could be more filled with that joyous audacity than the saucy "Diaphane" poster for a face-powder, or the vivacious grace in the "Saxoleine" advertisement for an article no more romantic than coal-oil?

This is Cheret this capacity, almost an instinct, for the seizing of the keynote of his given subject, and for the portrayal of it in an unmistak- able way, with the fewest possible strokes of his unerring pencil.

Nor is his color less daring than his composition and line. He realizes how greatly audacity counts in a poster, and flings masses of vivid reds, yellows and blues In dazzling contrasts, never jarring but always startling. In his lettering he never forgets that he has a story to tell a story

■miasp.'*' ■" " '^*<i J

/" MX^i

COULISSES DE L'OPERA

Jules Cheret (1891)

23

Chap. II SALIENT CHARACTERISTICS 25

that should be as plain and should give as instantaneous an impression as his figure, and he has never sacrificed the clearness and legibility of the advertisement on his posters to any abstract tenets of art.

In short, he grasped (if, indeed, he may not be said to have origin- ated) the idea that the poster must be a brilliant tour de force an end which shall justify the means of its execution and present in no matter how extravagant a manner, a strong but pleasing shock to eye and mind, together with the clearest and simplest possible expression of the subject in hand to be advertised.

An English critic says : "His training told him that the first func- tion of advertising is to advertise. His merit as a draughtsman lies, in part, in vivacious rather than correct line: gaiety, as we have seen, is the chief quality of his color: his composition is remarkable on account of the piquancy and appropriateness of his detail."

Throughout his long career, Cheret has remained faithful to his art of poster-making if we except certain pastels and several mural paint- ings. None understood better than he the tools he had to work with, for his first labors were as a lithographer's apprentice, until he had mastered the technical side of his art, when he established his own studio and left all but the finer touches on the stones to his assistants.

In his earliest posters Cheret employed a familiar device among lithographers of shading off the color of the background stone, so that he might print at once the dark blue of the sky at the top, and the dark brown of a foreground at the bottom. Later, however, he chose to work rather in sharp contrasts, with violently opposed masses of intense color, and de- tached legends in yellow or white over his background, while his third period shows posters with a chromatic palette of red, yellow, and blue, with very few other colors, and with an extraordinarily clean rendering of lithographic values.

26

JULES CHERET Chap. II

It was in 1866 that he began the extraordinary series of affiches which has placed his name at the very head of all those that have essayed the poster, and there are over a thousand examples which have been cata- logued, with probably many others that have escaped the collector.

Of these the most important are the great series which he made for the Folies Bergeres, the Moulin Rouge and the Alcazar d'Ete, together with the engaging children of the "Buttes Chaumont" series. With the "Palais de Glace" series, perhaps his best known are the "Coulisses de I'Opera," the "Magasins du Louvre," and the little lady in