Moulin rouge, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s first poster, could be admired all over Paris in 1891.
The artist made full use of the possibilities of colour lithography to achieve a modern visual language of bright expanses of colour, decorative patterns, graphic silhouettes, and quirky typography.
Lautrec was following in the footsteps of the first ‘king of the poster,’ the printmaker Jules Chéret.
Both men dedicated themselves in a highly personal and artistic way to the needs of the poster, which had to grab the attention of distracted passers-by from a considerable distance.
Frescos for the masses
The critic Roger Marx praised the decorative effect of the coloured posters in the grey Parisian streets.
He also admired the social impact of artistic posters — with their simple messages and modern imagery, these prints functioned as ‘frescoes’ for the crowd.
Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen expressed this idea in his poster La Rue, the immense size and two-dimensional visual syntax of which are indeed reminiscent of a fresco.
By depicting the different social classes together in the street, he emphasised the idea that posters were accessible to everyone.
Affichomanie: Posters for Collectors
At the same time, posters were admired as high art by artists, critics, and collectors.
At first, Aficionados had no choice but to peel their posters off the walls in the street. It did not take long, however, for shrewd dealers like Edmond Sagot to develop a flourishing trade in these desired works.
The craze for posters grew steadily into what was soon termed affichomanie or 'poster-mania.'
Roger Marx, ‘Preface’, Les Maîtres de l’affiche [contenant les reproductions des plus belles affiches illustrees des grands artistes, français et étrangèrs], volume I-V, Paris 1896-1900
Marie-Jeanne Geyer, Le Salon de la rue. L'affiche illustrée de 1890 à 1910, Straatsburg (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg) 2008
Ruth Iskin, The Poster. Art, Advertising, Design, and Collecting, 1860s-1900s, Lebanon 2014