Thursday, 8 March 2012

Belle Epoque posters

These elegant posters are by Henri Privat-Livemont, perhaps best known for that semi-nude Absinthe Robette poster. Working at the turn of the century, he lived during the decadent Belle Epoque period and was (or is, retrospectively) a lesser-known figure in the Art Nouveau genre.

The elaborate floral patterns remind me of the William Morris style, but with a slightly more geometric, architectural slant. I’m also of the opinion that the font/typeface and the colour scheme are both pure Paris, even if Privat-Livemont was actually a Belgian. Reminds me of Hector Guimard’s famous Metro signs, which I would totally steal if I had the chance.

However, I think one of the biggest reasons I’m so keen on these posters – rather than actual paintings, if HPL did any – is that they’re adverts. I work in modern-day marketing, and now it seems surreal and ridiculous to have such an incredibly beautiful (and delusional) image to advertise some biscuits. The ASA would never allow it. The products are forgotten, and the poster itself is fundamentally disposable, so there’s something quite fragile about these century-old ads. Will people in 2112 be admiring old T-mobile or Nescafe billboards? ‘Ziff. These posters are from the point where art and commercialism, elegance and convenience, had just collided – it’s an intriguing contrast, and one that sadly didn’t last for long.

Anyway. I’d have prints of these in my home, especially if I had any exposed brick or tile to use as a backdrop. Probably the biscuits one. I like biscuits.

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