Celebrating the art of the Belle Époque poster with 50 works by five grand masters.
The Richard H. Driehaus Museum in Chicago will open the special exhibition L’Affichomania: The Passion for French Posters on February 11, 2017. The exhibition features approximately 50 posters dating from 1875 to 1910 created by five grand masters: Jules Chéret, Eugène Grasset, Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Alphonse Mucha.
Bright and bold and found everywhere in fin-de-siècle Paris, the poster was a brilliant fusion of art and commerce. “Subject as it was to wind, rain, and being covered up by posters from rival firms, the ephemeral poster nonetheless became the subject of passionate collecting in its own time,” says Jeannine Falino, exhibition curator. The poster craze, known as affichomanie, revolved around the acquisition of these posters, from buying and selling special editions to stealthy removals from walls and kiosks.
All the posters presented in the exhibition are drawn from the Collection of Richard H. Driehaus. “How fortunate we are to have these lively memories of the past to enjoy today; to experience that certain je ne sais quoi while strolling the exhibition galleries like the Parisians who once encountered them along the boulevards and in favorite bars, restaurants, and clubs; to savor forever the excitement of Paris during the glorious Belle Époque period through the colors and
charm of these enchanting posters,” says Museum Founder and Collector, Richard H. Driehaus.
“The posters of fin-de-siècle Paris are a pillar of Mr. Driehaus’s collection, which began in the mid-1970s with his first acquisition, a small print by Jules Chéret,” says Lise Dubé-Scherr, Museum Director. “We look forward to sharing these beautiful, vibrant works with the public in the intimate galleries at the Driehaus Museum, bringing the flavor of Paris to Chicago.”
Each of the five masters of the medium will be featured in one of the period galleries located on the second and third floors of the Museum. This will allow guests to both explore the artist’s individual style and to compare them with their contemporaries.
Jules Chéret fathered the poster craze when he harnessed the techniques of chromolithography, formerly a commercial medium used for reproductions, and brought them into the realm of fine art. Chèret’s bold imagery and colorful style inspired a generation of artists, led by the four featured in this exhibition. Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen created a proliferation of images for an astounding variety of magazines, journals, and printed media, reaching a wide cross-section of Parisian society. Eugène Grasset, influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, gave his posters the luminosity and definition of stained-glass windows. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec immortalized in his art the performers and prostitutes he met in his bohemian Montmartre milieu. Alphonse Mucha defined the Art Nouveau graphic look, adorning Parisian stage stars with golden haloes and sinuous, windswept tresses.
L’Affichomania: The Passion for French Posters will be accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue with a preface by Richard H. Driehaus, Museum Founder and Collector, and essay by Jeannine Falino, exhibition curator. The book will be published by The Monacelli Press and distributed by The University of Chicago Press. It will be available in the Museum Store beginning February 1, 2017.