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Poster Art from Toulouse-Lautrec to Mucha Scales the Heights

Published on , by Christophe Provot

Over 350 posters from the late 19th and the very early 20th century relived their finest hours, led by Mucha, Villon, Klimt and Toulouse-Lautrec.

Manuel Orazi (1860-1934), La Maison modern (The Modern House), 1900, canvas-mounted... Poster Art from Toulouse-Lautrec to Mucha Scales the Heights

Manuel Orazi (1860-1934), La Maison modern (The Modern House), 1900, canvas-mounted chromolithograph, printed by J. Minot, 81 x 116.5 cm/31.9 x 45.9 in.
Result: €48,640

It is an understatement to say that the sale was a success. But you can judge for yourself: it totaled €1,453,824 over two days. This was decisive recognition of the taste of Michel Romand (1929-2013), an informed collector whose watchword was "perfection". Poster art, which was somewhat stagnating in the 1950s when he opened the Documents Gallery at 53 rue de Seine in Paris, was certainly a family affair. His great-grandfather Edmond Sagot had opened his own gallery in 1890 and launched the poster collection trend. It was only in the 1960s that posters took on a new lease of life with the craze for Art Nouveau. In 1975, Michel Romand acquired the poster collection of Charles-Joseph Guillemain, who had been partly supplied by Edmond Sagot. The wheel had turned full circle.

Affectionately nicknamed "the little man" by the can-can girls of the famous Parisian cabaret, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) recei

Affectionately nicknamed "the little man" by the can-can girls of the famous Parisian cabaret, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) received the highest bid of the sale for his first poster, Moulin Rouge, la Goulue (171.5 x 124 cm/67.5 x 48.8 in), at €166,400. In 1891, Charles Zidler, director of the Montmartre venue, commissioned this composition—which established him with the public—for the launch of the season. The real champion of the Moulin, Toulouse-Lautrec captured the unrestrained atmosphere and depicted two leading figures: the famous dancer and contortionist Valentin le Désossé, and La Goulue, queen of the cancan and the artist's muse.

One of the best-known works by Alfons Mucha (1860-1939), his 1896 poster for Alfred de Musset's five-act play Lorenzaccio (207 x 77 cm/81.

One of the best-known works by Alfons Mucha (1860-1939), his 1896 poster for Alfred de Musset's five-act play Lorenzaccio (207 x 77 cm/81.5 x 30.2 in.) is the quintessential expression of Art Nouveau. The great Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923), who played the title role, is shown life-size in her Renaissance prince costume. This two-color proof is the first extant copy confirming intermediate print runs of a hundred copies signed by Mucha and designed for collectors. Bearing the number 33, this rare piece was naturally preempted by the BnF (French National Library), which snapped it up for €7,680.



This collection, sold by the family, is a treasure trove emblematic of an entire lifetime of dedication and a broad overview of a popular art form to which many leading artists devoted themselves. The first part of the sale, devoted to antique posters, led to some fine bids, starting with Gustav Klimt (see below). Further down the line, an anonymous canvas-mounted chromolithograph (100 x 137 cm/39.4 x 53.9 in), strikingly promoting the merits of Gladiator brand bicycles, fetched €21,760. A highly Mucha-inspired poster by Henri Privat-Livemont (1861-1936) for Absinthe Robette (113 x 83 cm/44.5 x 32.7 in), signed and dated 1896, charmed a buyer at €13,440. The second day of the sale was exclusively devoted to French posters. In addition to Toulouse-Lautrec and Jacques Villon’s two six-figure bids (see below), a splendid €48,640 went to Manuel Orazi (1860-1934) for his 1900 La Maison Moderne (The Modern House: 81 x 116.5 cm/31.9 x 45.9 in, see photo), and €44,800 to Le Progrès, le journal de Lyon (Le Progrès, Lyon’s newspaper: 80 x 107 cm/31.5 x 42.1 in), a very rare 1927 piece by Adolphe Mouron, aka Cassandre (1901-1968).

€53,760 greeted this extremely rare poster (97 x 71 cm/38.2 x 28 in.) produced by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) for the Vienna Secession’s firs

€53,760 greeted this extremely rare poster (97 x 71 cm/38.2 x 28 in.) produced by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) for the Vienna Secession’s first exhibition in 1898. Unlike most of his Austrian and German colleagues, Klimt did not practice engraving, but started out illustrating books and magazines. The battle between Theseus and the Minotaur, shielded by the warrior figure of Pallas Athene, represents the fight against academism of the members of the emerging Secession. The empty space occupying almost the entire composition reflected the censorship of artists at the time.

Jacques Villon, whose real name was Gaston Duchamp (1875-1963)—he was Marcel Duchamp's older brother—is better known as a painter than as

Jacques Villon, whose real name was Gaston Duchamp (1875-1963)—he was Marcel Duchamp's older brother—is better known as a painter than as a poster artist. The one advertising Le Grillon, american bar et concert (131.5 x 94 cm/51.8 x 37 in), from 1899, was carried off for €125,440. Le Grillon, at 20 rue de Cujas, was an American bar highly fashionable in the 1890s, which held out against the rise of Montmartre in the early 20th century. Villon incorporated figures of the time into this work. The pianist in the background is Dominique Bonnaud, a chansonnier discovered at the cabaret Le Chat Noir, while the customer in the foreground is his friend Jean-Pierre Levée, a regular at the bohemian venue, which was Villon's studio. At his feet, Villon depicts a cricket holding a mug of beer, alluding to the bar’s name.

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