Essay, Research Paper: Cheret`s Lithographic Posters 


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Although lithography was invented in 1798, it was at first too slow and
expensive for poster production. Most posters were woodblocks or metal
engravings with little color or design. This all changed with Cheret’s
"three stone lithographic process," a breakthrough which allowed
artists to achieve every color in the spectrum with as little as three stones -
red, yellow and blue - printed in careful registration. Although the process was
difficult, the result was a remarkable intensity of color and texture, with
sublime transparencies and nuances impossible in other media (even to this day).
This ability to combine word and image in such an attractive and economical
format finally made the lithographic poster a powerful innovation. Starting in
the 1870s in Paris, it became the dominant means of mass communication in the
rapidly growing cities of Europe and America. In France especially, as the
industrial age grew, the average person had more time for themselves. They
became better educated. They were becoming readers, theater goers, music and art
lovers. It seems as though the French developed a keener sense of art and style,
ahead of everyone else. Paris became the center for culture and artistic
excellence, during this period These were changing times. The middle class
started to have access to consumer goods. This new consumer-oriented economy
created a need for a medium to reach the masses of people with product
information. The poster filled this need. To reach the people they had to be
loud, colorful, easy to read and easy to understand. More importantly they had
to be inexpensive as they only lasted for such a short period of time. Jules
Cheret pioneered color lithography as an economical means of advertising. His
innovations with color and shading produced images that convey their message in
a matter of seconds while still proving interesting more than one hundred years
later with complex and subtle color harmonies. More than any other artist,
Cheret gives us a vision of Paris in the 1890's: an outdoor café society
leisurely strolling the boulevards on a Sunday afternoon. This represents an
idealized fantasy, devoid of poverty, class struggle, and conflict. Classic
posters, are examples of great advertising, combining esthetics with direct
communication resulting in a message with resonance. In advertising, you can
only sell two things: a product that fulfills a need or artificially creates
good feelings. These posters are the epitome of feel-good art and that is what
gives them their compelling appeal. One of the main reason posters are so
valuable, is because they show the changes in society, as well as the society
itself. Whether or not the poster is designed by a "recognized"
artist, when it has aesthetic qualities or particular merit, the poster can
change its status from being the means of a common advertisement, it can become
a work of art in its own right. So for a good number of them, the border between
advertising medium and work of fine art becomes very blurred.

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