In Pictures: See the Vivacious Belle Époque Posters of Jules Chéret, the Most Influential Artist You May Not Have Heard of

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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.

Installation view of “Always New: The Posters of Jules Chéret.”

Installation view of “Always New: The Posters of Jules Chéret.” Courtesy of the Milwaukee Art Museum. Photo by Matt Haas

Installation view of “Always New: The Posters of Jules Chéret.”

Installation view of “Always New: The Posters of Jules Chéret.”

Installation view of “Always New: The Posters of Jules Chéret.”

Installation view of “Always New: The Posters of Jules Chéret.”

Jules Chéret, Folies-Bergère: Loïe Fuller

Jules Chéret, Folies-Bergère: Loïe Fuller (1897). The James and Susee Wiechmann Collection, M2021.163. Photo by John R. Glembin

Jules Chéret, Benzo-Moteur (1900

Jules Chéret, Benzo-Moteur (1900). The James and Susee Wiechmann Collection. Photo by John R. Glembin

Jules Chéret, Bonnard-Bidault: Affichage et distribution d’imprimés (1887)

Jules Chéret, Bonnard-Bidault: Affichage et distribution d’imprimés (1887). The James and Susee Wiechmann Collection. Photo by John R. Glembin

Jules Chéret, Bonnard-Bidault: Bal du Moulin Rouge (1889)

Jules Chéret, Bonnard-Bidault: Bal du Moulin Rouge (1889). The James and Susee Wiechmann Collection. Photo by John R. Glembin

Jules Chéret, Job, 1895

Jules Chéret, Job (1895). The James and Susee Wiechmann Collection. Photo by John R. Glembin

Jules Chéret, Folies-Bergère: Jefferson l’Homme Poisson

Jules Chéret, Folies-Bergère: Jefferson l’Homme Poisson (1876). The James and Susee Wiechmann Collection. Photo by John R. Glembin

Jules Chéret, L’Horloge: Les Girard

Jules Chéret, L’Horloge: Les Girard (1875/1878 or 1880/1881). The James and Susee Wiechmann Collection. Photo by John R. Glembin

Jules Chéret, Vin Mariani (1894)

Jules Chéret, Vin Mariani (1894). The James and Susee Wiechmann Collection. Photo by John R. Glembin

Jules Chéret, Musée Grévin

Jules Chéret, Musée Grévin [before letters] (1900). The James and Susee Wiechmann Collection. Photo by John R. Glembin

Installation view of “Always New: The Posters of Jules Chéret.”

Installation view of “Always New: The Posters of Jules Chéret.”

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