Monday, April 19, 2010

Élysée Montmartre, Cabaret, and the “The Chérette”

This photo was taken from the side of the Elysee Montmartre as you begin to walk up the hill on the rue de Steinkerque. With letterforms composed of dots the old sign still suggests a cabaret marquee. At one time Steinkerque street was associated with licentiousness and brothels, but now the street is known as the “silk road”. The Sympa is a brand name discount clothing chain store.

Founded as a ballroom in 1807, the Elysee Montmartre became a Parisian nightclub spot for the wealthy and celebrities during the nineteenth century. Located on boulevard de Rochechouart, the landmark has been portrayed in literary and artistic works such as in the novel L’Assommoir by Émile Zola and in the artwork of Toulouse-Lautrec.

Jules Chérét
was instrumental in developing the large format French poster in the last half of the nineteenth century. Amazingly, he would draw directly on a very large litho stone and work with registered layers of primary colors to generate a full color effect. His mature poster design style is characterized by the unity of words and images. The bold, hand drawn, typography quite often mimics the forms and twisting gestures of the central figures.

In his book, Posters, Bevis Hillier quotes novelist Joris-Karl Huysmans, who as an art critic, stated that he preferred viewing “the crudest posters advertising a cabaret or a circus” to looking at “the fiddle-faddle and jiggery-pokery of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts” — from the Le Voltaire issue of 17 May 1879. In other words, Huysmans was saying he appreciated seeing the commercial art poster more so than the fine art of the élite art establishment.

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