25 July 2012

Elegance and Colors Fantastical

The Milwaukee Art Museum is staging a wonderful exhibition -- Posters of Paris -- through 9 Sept.  I had the chance to see it for the first time this past week.  Bought the show's catalogue book too as I found some good inspiration and ideas there for my graphic novel project.  

I had known of the work by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Alphonse Mucha but was delighted to see some new artists.  And I hadn't realized how large many of the pieces were.  Up to now I'd only seen most of the art in books or via the smaller posters sold for dorm rooms and the like.  The impact of size and being able to see the detailed craftsmanship was a powerful experience for me.
These two works of performer Aristide Bruant were about 4x3 feet in size.

This one, Automobiles Brasier by Leonetto Cappiello is 9 feet tall! And the colors!  This image here does a disservice to the work.  The woman's blouse is a brilliant fuschia and the swirl of colors around the car are a dashing and intense rainbow of vivid shades.

Another amusing aspect was the historical representation of bicycles.  In their own way they were as sexy and exciting as Smart phones are today. 

Cycles Perfecta by Alphonse Mucha

Déesse by Jean de Paleologue

Marque Georges Richard Cycles & Automobiles

The style and imagery of the posters brought to my mind the illustrations done by John R. Neill for L. Frank Baum's Oz books.  Oz was a staple of my childhood reading for many years.  Neill's drawings were as captivating as Baum's stories.

Cover illustration

Cover Illustration

Illustration of Mermaid from The Scarecrow of Oz

There is a stained glass quality to the Paris posters and J.R. Neill's Oz covers.  So I was not at all surprised, when researching this post, to come upon the work of stained glass artist and Oz Enthusiast, Bill Campbell.  This piece, a commissioned work, was inspired by the endpaper illustrations by Neill for Ozma of Oz. 

Campbell's work is detailed, playful, and exceedingly well-crafted.  He also has an OzShop over on Zazzle where he sells smaller pieces.  I recommend this artist highly!


  1. Thanks for the great review! This looks like a fabulous exhibit. I wish we could see it in person. Ah, well.

    You caused me to do some background reading on Toulouse-Lautrec. He accomplished much in a short life. As for his contemporaries, I love the images of automobiles and bicycles. The fairy holding the bike aloft to an adoring throng is sublime.

    Oh, hello back from Twitter land. I just signed up today to keep track of evolving issues I deal with at work, but I will follow my general interests as well :) I'm not sure if I will be an active poster. Time will tell...

    1. I think I read somewhere that the posters exhibition will be in Dallas next. If your business takes you there, perhaps you'll get to see it.

  2. Neill's artwork for Oz is my favorite. He did the best covers and the most beautiful work. Unfortunately, I've never read the books as a child, and now that I'm grown up, I fear they may not hold my attention. My daughter, however, has read all the books and admires them greatly. I wish I could afford to buy the entire series.

    Mucha is also a favorite. I became a fan of his work when seeing some of his actual posters in a gallery in Beverly Hills (this was back in the 80s). He is widely emulated, and understandably so. I see his influence in everything from comic books to product packaging. He remains an original.

    1. Re: Oz books. The original editions are pricy but Books of Wonder is selling replicas of them for reasonable $. Though I've read they did some editing or something, so they are not precise facsimiles. The Bradford Exchange is doing a more thorough job of a facsimile reproduction which look really good. I am seriously considering signing up. (I have original editions of The Patchwork Girl of Oz and The Land of Oz.)


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