“Posters of Paris” Ponderings

After a lovely afternoon at the Milwaukee Art Museum with the audio guide and my notebook as my companions, these are few of the observations I jotted down while navigating the metaphorical Morris columns:

1. Morris columns are smooth, cylindrical pillars installed on Parisian streets in the late 1800s—specifically for displaying poster advertising in the round.

2. These advertising posters (affiches artistique) inspired poster mania (affichomanie).

3. People coveted these works so much that artists like Grün had to stamp their art with, “This poster may not be given or sold.”

4. My favorite artist in the exhibition is Alphonse Mucha, a Moravian (Czechoslovakian), who created gorgeous Art Nouveau designs.

5. The connection between the birth of bicycles and feminism in France at this time—both as mechanisms of “speed, freedom and liberation”—produced some of the more intriguing advertisements in the exhibit.

6. I was amazed at how many of the most famously reproduced posters of our time are by Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, yet he’s hardly a household name like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. (Ok, maybe he’s not a household name either, but Steinlen? You’d be surprised how many of his pieces you know.)

7. Henri-Gustave Jossot once justified his brash color choices by saying advertising posters should “howl” off the walls to gain attention. Love that imagery.

If you haven’t seen Posters of Paris at MAM, you have until September 9. It’s pretty much a “must” for graphic designers, but even lay people may recognize many of the pieces and will enjoy the over-sized historical pictorial of turn-of-the-century French advertising. You might end up with “affichomanie” by the time you reach the gift shop. I know I did.

Tyra Baumler
Owner, Tessera Design

This article has 2 comments

  1. Lora Dow
    Around 5 years ago

    On a trip to Paris I went to a little out-of-the-way museum dedicated to the work of Toulouse-Lautrec and other art of his entourage. Along with the distinctive design, I also got a kick out of the humor, subversiveness and overall joy of the pieces. Will need to get myself over to MAM soon!

  2. tyra
    Around 5 years ago

    I think you would love the exhibit, Lora!

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