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ART DÉCO: Graphic Design from Paris

Intertwining floral shapes and austere geometric elements, contrasting colors, and clear, yet playful, typography – Art Déco graphic design brings together elements that seem antagonistic. Elaborate posters, illustrations and advertisements reflect the major themes of the period. New forms of advertising for haute couture, jazz, dance, or for technological achievements, but also for government bonds and war bonds, project an illusory image of a better, more beautiful world.

The exhibition with more than 100 fascinating prints, some of them large-scale works, from the collection of the Hamburg Museum of Applied Art will take visitors on a journey to the glamorous Paris of 100 years ago.

In the 1920s, graphic design saw its heyday worldwide – Bauhaus in Germany, de Stijl in the Netherlands and Russian avant-garde. In France, graphic design was also in its prime. This development, initially drawing on the Art Nouveau movement of the turn of the century and finally being allocated its stylistic designation on the occasion of the Paris World Fair of Applied Art in 1925, was nothing short of a documentation of the life on the edge during the inter-war years.

In boldly designed visions of flamboyance, Paris presented itself as a colorful, progressive and exuberant place. Leading Paris print makers illustrated the attitude towards life during the ›années folles‹, the ›Roaring Twenties‹, with artistic experiments, innovative techniques and spectacular pictorial inventions.

The pochoir print is a characteristic feature of those times – an elaborate printing technique using stencils, often combined with lithography, line engraving and quite a lot of manual work. The naked eye often finds it difficult to distinguish these extensive prints from water colors. Pochoir came to epitomize the genre of elegant fashion illustrations in magazines and journals. A number of outstanding artists – above all Paul Iribe (1883–1935), George Barbier (1882–1932) and André Édouard Marty (1882–1974) – chose this technique as their medium.

Among the leading poster artists – posters were designed in oil or gouache in the studio and then printed as traditional lithographs – were A. M. Cassandre (1901–1968) and Paul Colin (1892–1985). Each had their individual, unmistakable style. While Cassandre was above all active in designing advertisements for luxury goods, Colin specialized in work for the theatres and cabarets in Paris and portrayed the famous singers and actors of that time.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is Colin’s portfolio of the Revue Nègre, Josephine Baker’s troupe of dancers, who had several performances in Paris and for whom Colin also designed the stage set and the costumes
Relevant research areas: Western Europe, 20th Century, Engraving, Lithography

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