Paul Emile Berthon (1872-1909) • Together with the art of Alphonse Mucha, the lithographs of Paul Berthon stand at the centre of our interpre- tation of Art Nouveau grace and beauty. Despite his short life, it is impossible not to rank Berthon among the greatest masters of this turn-of-the-century art movement. "L'Ermitage" is considered by many art critics as Berthon's greatest masterpiece.
This infamous poster graces the cover of Stanley Appelbaum's "Complete Masters of the Poster: Color Plates From Les Maitres de L'Affiche", which consists of 256 small format lithographic plates of the best posters of La Belle Epoque. These collectible miniatures were painstakingly produced four per month from 1895 to 1900.
The Maitres series was the outgrowth of the international poster craze of the 1890s, when the new advertising medium transformed the boulevards of Paris and other major cities into the "art gallery of the street." Posters by Toulouse-Lautrec, Mucha, Beardsley, Parrish, Grasset and others became widely collected, and Cheret realized that many collectors would enjoy a portfolio of the best posters from around the world that could be admired in a smaller, more practical format. The series was an enormous success and continues to be highly popular today.
La Belle Epoque • There was nothing exclusive about the "joie de vivre" that swept Paris at a delirious pace out of the 19th century into the 20th. As Victor Hugo (French novelist, poet and dramatist) had observed, the city lived by and for the whole human race. Haussmann's great boulevards had opened up a spacious stage where Paris made a spectacle of herself by day and night. Outdoors and indoors the walls of buildings flowered with posters that took their themes from the passing show of "La vie Parisenne." Advertising never new happier days. The most ephemeral of the arts has left us with a vision of the "good old days" that vanished forever in the gunsmoke of 1914. Those gay nineties and naughty noughts that will always be remembered as La Belle Epoque – the beautiful era.