First Ladies of the Poster
The Gold Collection
L. Gold, with an introduction by J. Rennert; Posters Please, New York (1998), fax +1-212-604 9175; 160 pages, 206 color reproductions, 28 x 22 cm, softcover; ISBN 0-9664202-0-9; 45 US$ (50 US$ outside USA)
Laura Gold is one of the prominent poster dealers in New York, and with a shop in Carnegie Hall certainly the most visible. She has built collections for her customers for many years, all the while putting aside choice specimens for herself, as it now turns out. She has specialized in the subject of women in posters from the turn of the century. Most of them are from France, not surprisingly, as Paris was the place where the poster boom all started, when Jules Cheret realized that color lithography was a fantastic new technology for advertising.
To publish a book today with nothing but pictures of beautiful women, many of them displaying their charms for worldly purposes, is bound to rise some politically correct eyebrows. Jack Rennert's preface takes care of that by pointing out that the use of women as symbols and subjects has a long tradition, and he adds a picture of Botticelli's Birth of Venus to prove it.
We could also blame poster pioneer Cheret for setting the tone in this new field. About 80 %, maybe more, of Cheret's vast poster production has women as it's main subject. When promoting Saxoleine for example, a smelly petroleum substance sold in 5 liter cans, he would not show the product in his posters, but somehow managed to convince you that using it in a lamp was bound to guarantee a nice evening in the presence of a joyful lady. Jean de Paleologue, another early affichiste and anatomy emphasizer, even went one step further. Bear with them, feminists.
All the great masters of early poster design are represented in the Gold collection, and in the book: Cheret, Paul Berthon, Will Bradley, Cappiello, Grasset, Henri Gray, J.A. Gruen, Privat Livemont, Mucha, Pal and many more. Short biographical descriptions are given on about eighty of them, and there is a little story about each of the posters. Layout and printing is immaculate, as expected in a book from Posters Please.
Exposition E. Grasset
1894, Eugene Grasset
Poster for a solo exhibition at the Salons des Cents, Paris
L'automatique a billes Eyquem
1898, Pal (Jean de Palaelogue)
Poster for an early copying machine, allowing 3000 copies to be made
1900, Jules Cheret
Poster for safety petrol
1900, Paul Berthon
A poster collection often describes the personality of the collector.
With this book, Laura Gold clearly says "I want the best there is", and I think
she's got it, or most of it, anyway.