Research for Presentation: Lithography – The new Poster – Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

‘The technique of colour lithography for printing large-scale posters was being rapidly improved in the last decades (1880’s and 1890’s) of the nineteenth century, and a poster craze swept the United States. The fashion for acquiring posters, especially by the French artists…Toulouse-Lautrec and others…’

‘The process, invented by the German Alois Senefelder between 1796 and 1799, involves drawing in chalk on a flat surface; this was initially done on a specially prepared stone and later on flat rubber sheets that were compatible with mechanized presses.’

‘The new poster was also distinctive in that it allowed the copy-line, or text, and pictorial schemes to be integrated in an artistic whole. This was the case in Paris, for example, where designers and artists such as…Toulouse-Lautrec…devised lettering that enhanced their pictorial compositions.’

‘The identity of the poster depended on the close association between the graphic and commercial arts. In the 1880s and 1890s posters were just as likely to be used to advertise a portfolio of prints or a concert as they were to sell bicycles, sewing machines or soap. This new and powerful status was celebrated by the poster’s advocates as part of the modernity of contemporary life, but equally it was strongly criticised by its detractors, who believed that fine art was endangered by commerce.’

‘In France there was a close association between painters and poster art…’

‘By implication, posters became a means to disseminate visual ideas to those unfamiliar with the art gallery.’

‘However not everyone was so enthusiastic about the spread of printed images across the town and countryside.’

  • ‘these modes of persuasion were too forceful’
  • ‘outdoor advertisements presented a form of visual pollution’
  • ‘In many French and German cities this problem was addressed by using poster columns to encourage an orderly and artistic display.’

The poster boom led to the acerbic Austrian writer Karl Krauss to comment in 1909: “Is there life beyond the poster?” a comment strangely prescient of postmodern debates about whether there is life beyond the media.

‘The designer of more than 500 posters, Villemot believed that a perfect poster should be readable in a fraction of a second. He commented on this need for directness in an address to the Art Directors Club of New York in 1954, stating: “On the technical plane the poster must aim at the suggestive force and simplicity fo the road sign. On the designing plane it must aim at Art, not forgetting Toulouse-Lautrec and Picasso.”

‘The French poster tradition could be considered retrogressive in the context of a fully developing graphic design. Indeed one commentator, Francois Stahly, wrote in 1955: “As the metropolis of modern painting, Paris has an applied-art climate all of its own, and one in which the technical tendencies of present-day advertising design are not always given adequate scope. Yet whenever a poster artist of the Parisian vintage also has a feeling for effective graphic presentation, his works take on a quality that raises them above mere advertising to the rank of modern murals.’

All of this information was taken from this book:

‘…the series of lithographs called Les Maitres de l’Affiche (“masters of the poster”), which was published in Paris between 1895 and 1900.’ ‘Other artists in the series included Henri Toulouse-Lautrec…’

‘Still, some collectors sought out the large-scale originals, and for that market dealers such as Edmond Sagot would produce overruns by popular artists such as Henri Toulouse-Lautrec so that they could sell them direct to the collecting public.

‘Toulouse-Lautrec contributed several lithographs to’ Le Rire.

‘…Toulouse-Lautrec’s love of the bizarre…’

‘Artists including Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and Vincent Van Gogh both became absinthe addicts.’

‘Bella had appointed Toulouse-Lautrec to head the French section, which featured nineteen works by Cheret, twenty-one by…

‘…Steinlen, and twenty by Toulouse-Lautrec himself.’

‘Several critics cited the dour mood and lack of sophisticated colourism in the English posters, which by all reports paled in comparison with the French works.’

All of the above information is from:


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