Jules Chéret (1836-1932) is often referred to as the Father of the Modern Poster. He did not invent posters, and he didn’t invent color lithography, but he invented the way color lithography is still used to make posters.
Below are two examples of posters before Jules Chéret’s time. They were black and white, stark, straighforward, and very little fun. They generally fall into the category of very old-looking.
And here are some Chérets:
A short film of the above-advertised Loie-Fuller, doing her famous Serpentine Dance.
Chéret was a self-taught illustrator from Paris who discovered the process of color lithography while working in London in the late 1850s. His boss at that time was the perfumer Eugene Rimmel, whose cosmetics company is still in business today. Rimmel eventually fronted Chéret the funds to start his own color-litho printing press in Paris.
Chéret was the first artist to use color lithography as its own art form, rather than as a means of reproducing other works of art. He was a highly skilled illustrator of the human figure, with confident lines, and he drew his illustrations directly onto the lithographic stones. He used bright primary colors that leapt out at the viewer, making his posters visible from long distances on the Paris streets.
In Chéret’s time, the modern notion of feminism in France was already a hundred years old. However, his depictions of women were revolutionary in that they were no longer imprisoned in the home. They were out having a good time, in an urban environment, smoking, drinking, and dancing with no trace of judgement coming from the artist. Of course all Chéret’s female figures were still young, beautiful, and provocatively dressed, but this was still the late 1800’s, and he was in the business of advertising. It is also a stretch to say that Chéret’s art had a hand in liberating the women of his time. More likely Chéret was just painting what he saw, and his illustrations may have in turn served as a model for what was okay in women’s behavior, resulting in a feedback loop that may have furthered the feminist cause.
The collection of posters brought into Fourth Cone Restoration were in varying states of disprepair. Some of them looked amazing, and some had been previously linen backed and restored. It’s very rare to see a Chéret poster that hasn’t been previously restored, since they were collectible even in their own time, and linen backing was and still is a great way to make posters displayable in the home. Some of these posters had been mounted using an outdated technique, and the paper had begun to wrinkle because the backing was not sturdy enough to hold a flat shape.
The poster for the production of Le Miroir at the Folies Berger was removed from its old backing, washed, bleached, and then it was given a new, sturdier linen backing before finally being fully re-restored.