You may not know the name Jules Chéret—but his work has probably left an impression on you nevertheless.
That’s because of how wide his influence has been. Chéret (1836–1932) is one of the artists who defines the image of Belle Époque Paris through the afterimage of his dazzling commercial posters. Drawing on the ebullience of Rococo art, he created a new visual iconography of commercial life with his innovative lithographs. Their exuberance matched the excitement and ever-changing nature of the industrial metropolis.
Today, Chéret is remembered as one of the great progenitors of the poster as an art form. His stylish ads for liquor and nightlife are also credited with creating a new kind of image of the free-spirited fin-de-siècle women—the public even used the term “Chérette” to refer to the phenomenon. His models were described as looking “like champagne coming out of a bottle.”
“Always New: The Posters of Jules Chéret” at the Milwaukee Art Museum marks the first U.S. solo show for the artist, with 109 sensational works on view that hail from a donation to the institution from James and Susee Wiechmann. While these graphics were made to hawk the fleeting attractions of a cabaret or fashions that are now firmly in the past, the appeal of Chéret’s dynamic style has lasted much longer than any of the things he was selling.
See some of the highlights from the show, below.