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Jules Chéret
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A lithographer who raised the design and printing of advertising posters to the level of fine art, Jules Chéret was also a well-regarded painter, illustrator and muralist in the late 19th and early 20th century France. He created a new means of expression that inspired a younger generation of artists, including Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) and Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947). His drawings and lithographs appeared in a variety of Parisian journals of the time. Chéret’s formal artistic training was limited and he was largely a self-taught draughtsman, but his apprenticeships with lithographers beginning at the age of 13 provided the training that would serve him well in his artistic career. His first lithographic poster, advertising Jacques Offenbach’s opera Orpheus in the Underworld (1858, Broido 23) did not lead to further commissions. Chéret continued to work for commercial lithographers, moving to London in 1859 and returning to Paris in 1866, creating book covers and advertising materials for theaters, circuses and music halls. In 1865 he began working for the perfume manufacturer Eugène Rimmel (1820-1887), preparing advertising materials. In 1866 with Rimmel’s financial assistance, Chéret set up his own studio and published successful posters, including La Biche à Bois (Broido 225). In 1869 Chéret began printing in multiple colors with three or four lithographic stones. Together with his skilled draughtsmanship, Chéret’s posters became hugely popular, leading to great financial success. In 1881 he sold his printing works to the Maison Chaix, while retaining artistic control. During his career, Chéret created some 750 poster designs. Among the best known are Le Bal du Moulin Rouge, 1889 (Broido 309) and Loie Fuller at the Folies Bergère, 1893 (Broido 125). So great was the demand for Chéret’s posters that he sold reduced-size posters intended for collectors, some of which were folded into subscribers’ editions of the weekly art journal Le Courrier Français. He also created posters without advertising, sold as collectable art works. Influenced by Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721), Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) and François Boucher (1703-1770), Chéret developed an elegant style, presenting female dancers with such grace that they came to be known as “Chérettes”. As a painter, designer and muralist, Chéret received commissions to create murals for the Hôtel de Ville in Paris and the Salle des Fêtes in the Palais de la Préfecture in Nice, and designed a curtain for the Museé Grévin. In collaboration with Félix Bracquemond (1833-1914), Chéret decorated the billiard room in Baron Joseph Vitta’s (1860-1940) Villa Sapinière in Evian, with Chéret painting murals of dancing women; the result was much admired at the time. Chéret also designed murals for Maurice Fenaílle’s (1855-1937) house in Neuilly. He received silver and gold medals at the 1879 and 1889 Paris Expositions Universelle and was a member of the Legion of Honor. He retired to Nice, where the Musée des Beaux-Arts is named Musée Jules Chéret in his honor. (TNB 3/2010) Selected bibliography: Bénézit, Emmanuel. Dictionary of Artists, vol. 2, pp. 893-895. Paris: Gründ, 2006. Buhrs, Michael, ed. Jules Chéret: Künstler der Belle Époque und Pionier der Plakatkunst/Artist of the Belle Époque and Pioneeer ofv Poster Art. Exhibition catalog. Munich: Museum Villa Stuck, 2011. Cate, Phillip Dennis, and Sinclair Hitchings. The Color Revolution: Color Lithography in France, 1890–1900. Exhibition catalog. Santa Barbara: P. Smith, 1978.