Download 1800 Fin de Siècle French Posters & Prints: Iconic Works by Toulouse-Lautrec & Many More


Théophile Stein­len’s poster for Le Chat Noir, Leonet­to Cap­piel­lo’s adver­tise­ment for Café Mar­tin, Hen­ri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s por­traits of the cabaret singer Aris­tide Bru­ant — through these and oth­er much-repro­duced and often-seen images, we’ve all gained some famil­iar­i­ty, how­ev­er uncon­scious, with the art of the fin de siè­cle French print.

But even so, most of us have seen only a small frac­tion of all the strik­ing works of art a late-nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry Parisian would have encoun­tered on the streetscape every day. Until they invent a time machine to drop us straight into the cul­tur­al vibran­cy of that time and place, we’ve got the next best thing in the form of the Van Gogh Muse­um’s online French print col­lec­tion.

“In France, until the mid-nine­teenth cen­tu­ry, the art of print­mak­ing had been used pri­mar­i­ly to repro­duce exist­ing works of art in print, such as paint­ings and sculp­tures, so that they could be avail­able for a broad pub­lic,” says the muse­um’s announce­ment of the online col­lec­tion, which opened in Feb­ru­ary.

french poster3

But in the sec­ond half of the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry, “as artists began to exper­i­ment with the medi­um as a fer­tile mode of cre­ative expres­sion, each print came to be con­sid­ered a work of art in its own right.” In the aes­thet­i­cal­ly explo­sive years between 1890 to 1905, “a new gen­er­a­tion of artists took up the art of print­mak­ing as a mod­ern medi­um,” dri­ven by a “fas­ci­na­tion for mod­ern life, includ­ing the scin­til­lat­ing Paris nightlife, Japan­ese wood­block prints, and the inti­mate domes­tic lifestyle of the well-to-do bour­geois.”

Affiches Charles Verneau

The online col­lec­tion offers not just high-res­o­lu­tion images of near­ly 1800 prints, posters, and books from this move­ment, but infor­ma­tion that “reveals and elab­o­rates on innu­mer­able artis­tic and his­tor­i­cal con­nec­tions using inter­ac­tive tags and hyper­links,” shed­ding light on the “tight­ly knit com­mu­ni­ty” of the Parisian print world, whose “each indi­vid­ual print is con­nect­ed with count­less oth­er prints in many dif­fer­ent ways,” from shared influ­ences to sub­jects to artis­tic tech­niques to types of paper — and even to clients, who quick­ly real­ized the com­mer­cial val­ue of all the eye-catch­ing qual­i­ties pio­neered in this rev­o­lu­tion in repro­ducible visu­al art.

Chat Noir

You can browse the col­lec­tion in a vari­ety of ways with its index: by artists like SteinlenToulouse-Lautrec, or Paul Gau­guin; by tech­nique like wood­cut, aquatint, or pho­togravure; by theme like beau­tynightlife, or cap­i­tal­ism; and even by object type, from books to play­bills to all those still-eye-catch­ing adver­tise­ments. To Fran­cophiles, Paris has long stood as a place where even the busi­ness­men care about art. Pre­sum­ably the cof­fee com­pa­nies, eater­ies, bars, music halls, and pub­lish­ers who com­mis­sioned so many of these posters had at least a cer­tain regard for it, but if only they knew what a good bar­gain they were get­ting in pur­chas­ing the atten­tion of con­sumers for about 120 years and count­ing. Enter the com­plete online col­lec­tion of prints here, or click here to see some high­lights.

Salon des Cent

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load 2,000 Mag­nif­i­cent Turn-of-the-Cen­tu­ry Art Posters, Cour­tesy of the New York Pub­lic Library

René Magritte’s Ear­ly Art Deco Adver­tis­ing Posters, 1924–1927

Adver­tise­ments from Japan’s Gold­en Age of Art Deco

Beau­ti­ful, Col­or Pho­tographs of Paris Tak­en 100 Years Ago—at the Begin­ning of World War I & the End of La Belle Époque

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • tatjana says:

    This is fan­tas­tic news, but the link to the muse­um online col­lec­tion that is pro­vid­ed is bro­ken, so not real­ly pos­si­ble to see the col­lec­tion. thank you for look­ing into it

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