Les affiches du Leman
J.C. Giroud; Georg Editeur, Chene-Bourg, Geneve (CH) (1998); 141 pages, about 100 color reproductions; 24 x 23 cm, hardcover; ISBN 2-8257-0618-3; in french
Lake Geneva, situated between France and Switzerland and bordering on the french and swiss Alps, is called Lac Leman by the locals, and has long been one of Europe's well known tourist areas. The new book from Jean-Charles Giroud, the curator of the large (50' 000) poster collection of Geneva's Bibliotheque publique et universitaire, shows posters from this region. Most are for tourism, but there is a handful for politics and culture, like Per Arnoldi's design for the Montreux Jazz Festival or Jean-Benoit Levy's photographic poster for a festival of organ music in Lausanne, to mention just two outstanding examples.
The sample pictures below, and indeed the book itself, present a history of the tourist poster in a nutshell, starting with the very early black-and-white placards who's typographic extravagance is often amazing. When color lithography arrived in the 1890's, the tourism directors and their poster artists used the new technology to the hilt and crammed everything into the poster that they could think of, panoramic views, close ups, time tables indicating the travel time from Paris, railway maps, smiling beauties and other landmarks.
Only twenty years later, the style had changed completely in the direction of poster art, not always to the liking of the tourist industry. At certain times, the history of the tourist poster in Geneva was quite turbulent, artist organisations arguing with political authorities, and they in turn with the tourist people and the printers, against the central railway headquarters, the public - a free-for-all. After flowering for another twenty years or so, the tourist poster declined in quantity and quality. Laurent Cocchi's delightful 1986 design makes it clear how far we have moved in the meantime.
All of it is superbly documented by Giroud, who's intimate knowledge of local history blends admirably with his passion for posters, and his ability to write. I enjoyed the part where he quotes a letter to the editor of the daily Tribune de Geneve in 1934, complaining that ... poster art was founded in it's days by painters who could draw a hand and a foot, something that today's poster specialists are totally ignorant of. Immortal wisdom.
Poster for Hotel Byron, close to the Chateau Chillon
unknown woodcutter and lithographer (try this on your Mac!)
Poster for Cie. Gle. de Navigation sur le Lac Leman
a small tourist spot on the swiss side
Thonon les Bains
on the french side
a bakery shop in Vevey
Highly recommended, as are the other poster publications by J.C. Giroud: