Modern Poster Design in a Modern Space ...

Posted by karen ETINGIN on April 14, 2011 0 Comments

When I first opened L'Affichiste, we specialized in Art Nouveau and Art Deco posters - more the former than the latter as I preferred Belle Epoque style at that time. The more I became exposed to art Deco design, the more I began to admire it - the punch of the colours, the different use of perspective, the changing design and detailed use of typography... it all began to speak to me in ways which it hadn't before.

And then I stepped into the Modern Age. I began to appreciate posters printed since 1940 in a way I never had before: the simplicity of design was often deceptive, and the use of photography had originally seemed to me a little bit of contemporary 'cheating', but again, the ore I saw the more I liked what I saw.

On a trip to Milan last year I visited one of my favourite fellow poster dealers: a man of infinite charm and one who has a virtually Garden of Eden when it comes to posters and prints. It is from him that I purchased Barilla a classic Italian mid-century poster featuring a classic Italian item: pasta.

Barilla is a company which still exists and which exports pasta around the world. This poster, produced in the 1950s, was a gift from one client to another - a nice way of saying thank you for a favour done between neighbours. We handled the framing - we can do that too! - and presto: a fab modern poster in a fab modern space. (Thanks Rene Michel for the photo!)

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Vintage Posters - Chez Vous!

Posted by karen ETINGIN on April 08, 2011 1 Comment

Vintage posters make excellent decorating statements - we tell our clients that all the time, and now we have proof!

We asked some of our clients to share photos of how their purchases from L'Affichiste look once they are installed in their living and working spaces and we will post them from time to time.

First up, Benoit's photos: Benoit is a talented fellow who has a great eye for design. His apartment is spare - nothing extra, nothing unnecessary - with clean lines and exposed brick walls which showcase his posters beautifully.

This is a wonderful poster from the First World War - produced by the Red Cross as a way to elicit funds for their work. Benoit calls her his 'angel' and is happy to have her look over him while he sleeps.

Cordial Medoc - by Le Monnier - is a wonderful explosion of Art Deco colour and design which fits perfectly with Benoit's other pieces. The brick wall provides great background for our poster and we think you'll agree he has a great eye for design. Bravo Benoit!

Send us your photos of our posters on your walls and we'll put them up too!

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Bachelor Pad Design 101 - Vintage Posters

Posted by karen ETINGIN on April 07, 2011 0 Comments

You’ve finally gotten rid of your college era couch and replaced it with something sexy, streamlined and simple – maybe a black leather Restoration Hardware number, or a simple over-stuffed Montauk style with the slip-cover equivalent of just-got-out-of-bed hair.


Now you need something for the walls: something big enough to grad and keep your attention, something you don’t need a degree in art history to understand, and something which might actually appreciate in value.


Vintage posters might just be the way to go: you’ve seen them in movies, on television shows, and probably on the walls of restaurants. In fact, they have become the design solution for decorators, designers and do-it-yourselfers who need to perk up spaces with collectible, affordable art which can work in a variety of environments, color schemes and budgets.


Whether it’s a pair of highly stylized Sabena posters from the 1950’s, an over-sized Charlie Chaplin movie poster from 1916, or even a set of contemporary Opera posters, you don’t need to break the bank to use these beauties on your walls.


Instant, idiot-proof design that will not only upgrade your living space and communicate your uber/ultra/total style status, it might also make your girlfriend hang out on the couch a little longer. And appreciate your cool knowledge of vintage posters. And you…

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Vintage Posters + L'Affichiste in the News! - 4 years and still going strong!

Posted by karen ETINGIN on April 05, 2011 0 Comments

 Maisons + Demeures (the French/Quebec edition of the VERY glamourous and exacting Canadian House + Homes) has featured our gallery in their April issue!!

In a section called Leche Vitrine (literally - lick the shop windows!) they call us the go-to gallery for vintage posters in Montreal. Who are we to argue??

Before they came to shoot in February I painted the gallery (myself, ahem!) from top to bottom so that it would look its best and showcase our wonderful collection. (Note to self - hire a painter next time...) The shoot was fun and I think that the posters and the gallery look fab! 

We would be happy to show you the article the next time you stop by... 

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L'Affichiste + IVPDA - They like us, they really like us!!*

Posted by karen ETINGIN on March 29, 2011 0 Comments

The first vintage poster I purchased was Cappiello's Nitrolian. It is a classic - full of vibrant black, white and red spaces, a great sense of perspective, style - and very typically Cappiello. It is also large - a French sheet (roughly 44 x 62, give or take a couple of inches here or there). I bought it in New York, from a woman who seemed to know everything there was to know about posters, and who had a gallery right at Carnegie Hall. Her name is Laura Gold.

Laura patiently explained to me the basics of vintage posters - what to look for, what made a vintage poster vintage, what made them special - with eloquence, obvious affection for the posters, and great salesmanship. She became a regular stop on my New York trips, and my walls became a tribute to her unerring eye, her great advice, and yes, her salesmanship.

Laura has written books about posters - the one which comes to mind features posters from her collection and discusses the role of women in posters - has curated exhibitions, has walked countless collectors through the A,B,C's of posters, and has done so with panache, elegance and wisdom. She introduced me to other dealers, was kind and helpful when I opened the gallery, and she is unfailingly polite and respectful. She is a woman to emulate.

When I opened the gallery four years ago I asked Laura if I could become a member of the global International Poster Dealer's Association. She - politely, but firmly - said no. When I asked why, she informed me of the Association's policy which required a dealer to be in business for a requisite number of years before joining (makes sense, right?). To join a gallery must be nominated by an existing member, and must have the nomination supported by at least two other members. (The credential of the IVPDA is like a feather in one's lapel - recognition that you do actually know what you are doing, and your peers know that you know...) Laura was kind enough to support my nomination when I asked her to do so, and 


today I am happy to report that L'Affichiste has been granted provisional acceptance to the IVPDA!

I'm pleased, honoured, and feel, as always, very fortunate to be involved in this wonderful world of vintage posters. It brings me great joy, fills my walls and my heart with art, and has taught me so much about art, history, art history and life. 

I'm a lucky girl!

 *OK, for all of you to young to remember, it's from Sally Field's acceptance speech for Norma Rae...

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Vintage Posters + L'Affichiste - 4 years and still going strong!

Posted by karen ETINGIN on March 26, 2011 0 Comments

I was thinking of what to write for today's blog entry and was tempted to look back on the last four years of L'Affichiste. Then I realized that when I opened the gallery there was an article which - I think (she says, not at all modestly) describes both the gallery and myself fairly well. I am attaching it below. (The article first appeared in Montreal Magazine and was written by Katia Grubisic)

Flashes of a can-can dancer's thigh adorn your coaster; you might know Toulouse-Lautrec via these glimpses between sips of beer. Or perhaps Carlo Biscaretti's anisette-pushing monkey hangs over your bar fridge, next to a beloved neon Budweiser sign. 

These might seem like cheap replicas, but poster art has never been as rarefied as your regular gallery fare. Long since in the public domain, the ephemera of a whole era now appears on everything from purses to placemats.

This summer, however, Toulouse-Lautrec, Biscaretti and dozens of their contemporaries are getting back some of their original oomph. A new gallery dedicated to the art of posters, L'Affichiste, has opened in Montréal's antiques district.

The gallery is the pet project of long-time affiche aficionada, Karen Etingin. After collecting privately for the past twenty years, Etingin is taking her obsession public. This light-filled, white-walled space sprawled on the second floor of a 1894 former bank building is the only gallery of its kind in Montréal. L'Affichiste boasts enormous colour prints advertising everything from hydrotherapy and silver polish to cigarettes and liqueurs. The collection moves from the visual eloquence of the Belle Époque through Art Deco's blockier colours and distinctive lines.

Etingin herself was first drawn by the romance and elegance of Art Nouveau: "I imagined myself in a horse-drawn carriage down the Champs-Elysées. The compulsion grew." And the rest, as they say, is history?specifically, history from roughly 1880 to 1940, tracing the evolution of economics, etiquette, censorship, politics and art.

"Each of the posters has a story," Etingin enthuses, "of either of the time or of the product, or of the artist." One poster depicts the mid-century European subculture of travelling fairs; another is the work of a retired officer in the French navy who decided to start painting after forty years of military service; yet another is an old candy wrapper, its gold-leaf intricacies and cameo-smooth model so striking that the actual chocolate must have seemed beside the point.

Posters are one of the last remaining artefacts of advertising and marketing that 
we have from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Etingin is struck by the visual impact of the posters, but also by the fragility of the medium: issued on sheets of newsprint, these posters were by their nature temporary and disposable, meant to be rained on, painted over and torn down. The best-preserved posters are often mounted on more durable linen. Etingin digs these up in Europe and New York, at auctions or through private dealers. 

Like most diehard collectors, Etingin has a relationship with each and every piece, often referring to their subjects with friendly familiarity. "I really do fall in love with them," she confesses, her eyes gleaming. 

Her fascination comes from the insights into trends and time periods offered by each piece, but also the examples they provide of the marketing techniques we now take for granted. Posters "are one of the last remaining artefacts of advertising and marketing that we have from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century," Etingin says. 

She shows me the Austrian artist Julius Klinger's Tabu cigarette-paper ads. The clean, printed shapes in red, white and black represent one of the first instances of branding. Klinger eventually perished in a concentration camp. "He was completely forgotten," says Etingin. At L'Affichiste, expect some large-scale, full-colour remembrance.

Etingin hopes to someday make this a multi-use space (the gallery already sells restored and remade Art Deco furniture on consignment.) In the meantime, she is basking in the success of her first two vernissages, and planning the next event for September. 

As for the big empty spaces on the walls at home? "That gives me an excuse to buy more!" Etingin says. Once a collector, always a collector.

Katia Grubisic is a writer, editor and translator whose work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Grain Magazine, Books in Canada, and The Fiddlehead, among others, and in a chapbook with Delirium Press. She is on the editorial board of The New Quarterly.

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Ludwig Hohlwein - Poster artist + social portraits...

Posted by karen ETINGIN on March 25, 2011 1 Comment

Ludwig Hohlwein was one of the most prolific poster artists ever to have lived in Germany. Born into an upper class family in 1874,  he initially trained and practiced as an architect until 1906 when he switched to poster design. Hohlwein's adaptations of photographic images and his skillful use of colour show an intrinsic and intuitive understanding not only of graphical principles but also of those underlying the printing process itself. His creative use of color and architectural compositions dispels any suggestion that he uses photos as a substitute for creative design.

Before coming across a portfolio of Hohlwein's work at auction a few years ago I had never had occasion to see his remarkable portraits of artists, high society folk or animals. This is remarkable when one considers that "Hohlwein was the most prolific and brilliant German posterist of the 20th century... Beginning with his first efforts, Hohlwein found his style with disconcerting facility. It would vary little for the next forty years. The drawing was perfect from the start, nothing seemed alien to him, and in any case, nothing posed a problem for him. His figures are full of touches of color and a play of light and shade that brings them out of their background and gives them substance". (Alain Weill)

There were a number of books published in Berlin in the early 1920s in which hundreds of Hohlwein's works can be found. Many of these books are printed in both German and 'English' (literal translations from the original German provide giggles and a barely comprehensible line of thought):  "When our artist (Hohlwein) informs us that he has never had a single pupil, and that he employs no assistants, since all of his patrons have the right to demand an honest original, then our amazement and admiration know no end. It was no light task to carry out unaided every commission from A to Z during all these years, and bring each to a happy conclusion by virtue of his own right hand. It was alone his love of his work, his devotion and fidelity to his work, which gave the Hohlwein poster that degree of perfection which has placed it in the very center of universal interest and universal demand. Nor need we believe for a moment that the creator of these superb designs simply shakes them out of his sleeves in complete, ready-made series. Hohlwein, on the contrary, works almost invariably from a model. . . ." 

A great source of information to me, once I started researching Hohlwein, was a website called 100 years of illustration ( Its author, Paul Giambarba has meticulously researched not only our good friend Ludwig, but most of the other notable illustrators of the last 100 years. What follows are some highlights from Mr. Giambarba's treatise on Hohlwein...

This is the famous Hohlwein signature that appeared on just about all his work. The umlaut over the u in München (Munich in English) is connected by a double slash to his name. Of course it looks like a Z and I have no idea why he chose it. It is discussed in the book Ludwig Hohlwein, (by Professor H.K. Frenzel, with an introduction by Dr. Walter F. Schubert, and translated by Herman George Scheffauer, and published in Berlin in 1926 by Phonix Illustrationsdruck und Verlag. The illustrations which follow are from the book.)

I don't know if it is the fault of the translation, which is almost as unintelligible as computer translation, or the ponderous obfuscation of German academia of the time, but to quote from the text:

"It goes without saying that this . . . like dozens of other original conceits of Hohlwein's, was seized upon by the petty pirates of advertising art, watered and botched and ruined. This passion for imitating the inimitable even went so far as attempts to ape the characteristic signature of the great Munich artist, that is, the two diagonal lines which run from the 'ü' in the word München and which connect the personal name with the place name. . . .

"But these poor-spirited imitators who clung to his heels everywhere, never felt a single trace of the essence and spirit of the master. The Hohlwein style may, of course, be copied like all others, that is, up to a certain degree, but the mystery of its great and magic power of attracting, which carries even the sober Briton and in a still greater degree the American along with it, remains a sealed book to them."

We have a large number of very affordable Hohlwein's available for purchase through our on-line shop as well as in our gallery in Montreal. We love their style, their verve, and the unmistakable affection Hohlwein show's for his subjects. 

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Leonetto Cappiello + fashion...

Posted by karen ETINGIN on March 23, 2011 1 Comment

At the turn of the last century, with the technological developments in printing and economies around the world in robust health, artists were being hired in large numbers to create posters that would entice, entertain and educate.  One of the first commissions that Leonetto Cappiello received when he arrived in Paris in late 1899 was for a folio of pochoirs depicting the leading actresses of the day in the roles and costumes for which they were famous. 

Aside from being able to detect in this very early work some of the design elements that Cappiello would use to great advantage throughout his career, his keen eye for detail provides evidence of the flair for which Parisian women were then– and are now – well-known. (Note the ‘S’ curves, the hair – either chignoned or bobbed, and the quintessential Parisian hauteur in profile.) “A Cappiello woman does not remind us of any particular person: she is any woman, and what attracts us is the bold and brazen way she insinuates herself into our consciousness.”[1]

Cappiello's work - he produced hundreds of posters - integrates humour, design, and artistic flair in a way which is instantly understandable and approachable by the viewer. Cappiello's creative skill as an artist and early marketer made him a much sought after and he never failed to disappoint: works such as Nitrolian, Veuve Amiot, Le Nil, Cachou Lajaunie each in their own way speak to his style, his attention to detail, and his immaculate design sense. 

As someone who can't draw a straight line, I am always in awe of artists and their ability to not only create something lasting, but to find a way to transmit a message, an idea, a thought in a way which moves the viewer and resonates with them. These posters and pochoirs, created more than a century ago, still have the power they did when created - they are spectacular, they are monumental and we feel so very lucky to be able to look at them every day!

(For more of our Cappiello's please see our shop at

[1] Rennert, Posters of the Belle Epoque: The Wine Spectator Collection.

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Fashion in Posters - Maitres de L'Affiche, Charles Gibson and more...

Posted by karen ETINGIN on March 22, 2011 0 Comments

Part 2 in a series of blog entries on fashion in posters... for the first part see yesterday's entry..

The trick - then, as now – was to translate a woman’s desire to be as attractive and well dressed as possible into a desire to purchase the accoutrements that would make that desire a reality. In the late 1890’s the quintessential feminine figure morphed from the hourglass shape into a more sinuous ‘S’ shape: “this change came from longer lined "health" corsets that supported the spine and abdomen... Fashionable women in this period seem to be leaning into a wind. The curvaceous clothing line of this period meshed perfectly with the curving lines of the dominant


 (1decorative style of the day,”[2] otherwise known as Art Nouveau. Changes in fashions required women to update their wardrobes – everything from corsets to gloves, hair ornaments to shoes – and as a result, advertisers in general, and posterists in particular, began to address women directly with posters which were designed not only to inform shoppers as to where certain items might be purchased, but also why it was imperative that these goods be purchased as soon as possible. Women were also much influenced by the Suffragette movement of the early 1900’s, with plays and magazine articles devoted to the “New Woman”

One of my first – and favorite – Maitres de l’Affiche[4] plates is by A.G. Morrow, and was done for a play called simply, The New Woman. 

Laura Gold, in her definitive book First Ladies of the Poster: The Gold Collection writes:

 "This Satire by English playwright Sydney Grundy concerns the attempts of three society women to explore the new trends in vogue at the end of the 19th century. The results are comic: Smoking only makes them sick; a light-hearted flirtation backfires by becoming deep love; and forays into uplifting intellectual pursuits turn hilarious...”[5]


The vision of women was changing all over the world: Britain had Grundy’s New Woman, while in the United States, Charles Dana Gibson created his own eponymous archetype - the Gibson Girl. She “was tall, slender yet with ample bosom, hips and bottom in the S-curve torso … The images of her epitomized the late nineteenth and early 20th-century Western preoccupation with statuesque, youthful features, and ephemeral beauty. Her neck was thin and her hair piled high upon her head in the contemporary bouffant,




… ("waterfall of curls") fashions. The tall, narrow-waisted ideal feminine figure was portrayed as multi-faceted, always at ease and fashionable. Gibson depicted her as an equal and sometimes teasing companion to men … The Gibson Girl personified beauty, limited independence, personal fulfillment (she was pictured attending college and choosing the best mate, but she was never pictured as part of a suffrage march), and American national prestige.”[6] (Check out our Gibson prints!)

To be continued...

[1]The tag line for the corset advertisement above right reads: “Accuse not nature, she hath done her part, do though but thine.”


[3] Op. Cit.,

[4] The "Les Maitres de l'Affiche" series was offered as a subscription series to collectors from December 1895 through November 1900,. Every month, subscribers received by mail, 4 loose sheets (Maitres) – smaller versions of what were considered at the time – and still – some of the finest posters of the period. Maitres are an affordable way for poster enthusiasts to start their collections,. 

[5] Page 112, Laura Gold, First Ladies of the Poster: The Gold Collection (printing info needed)


I suppose that as I consider myself a 21st century New Woman, it should come as no surprise that I have always adored Gibson Girls. I find them elegant in the extreme, with an assured sense of self, a refined glamour, and an almost arrogant – yet very, very restrained – and compelling sexuality. An 1896 collection of Gibson drawings was one of my first purchases for L’Affichiste. 

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Cheret, Privat Livemont, Mucha + fashion (part 1)

Posted by karen ETINGIN on March 21, 2011 0 Comments

Aspirational products have always played a part in a woman’s wardrobe: some of Cheret’s earliest posters (those which feature his infamous Cherettes), were frothy images of women ensconced in frills and bows; Mucha’s Art Nouveau masterpieces were a tribute not only to his ephemeral and sensuous view of women but also to the fashions they wore; and Privat Livemont – a Belgian contemporary of Mucha’s – had what can arguably be called the most beautiful women in posters at the turn of the 20th century.


Jack Rennert[1] describes Henri Privat-Livemont and his posters this way:

“By 1899, The Poster magazine was calling Privat-Livemont, ‘the uncontested master of Belgian posterists’. He had dazzled the poster world with delicately drawn designs which, while conceived somewhat differently from Mucha’s , created the same final effect of celebrating feminine pulchritude … He had the same penchant for the idealized female…”[2]


While Rennert correctly points out that Privat-Livemont’s well-known Absinthe Robette poster is “a classic of inspired product promotion”[3], one can’t help but notice that the girl holding the drink is (more or less) naked. While ‘body image’[4] is often thought to be a 21st century preoccupation, this poster beautifully illustrates that womens bodies long ago were recognized as having the power to sell products and fashion.[5] Without oversimplifying the issue, before a woman – any woman – dresses, she must look at herself in the mirror and decide what image she wishes to portray, both to herself, and to others. (Privat-Livemont and others of his time understood this well: unlike Toulouse Lautrec, who enjoyed the seedy underbelly of Parisian dance halls and portrayed them – and their denizens - in all their raunchy squalor, one would be hard-pressed to find an unattractive woman in any of Privat-Livemont’s works.)

... to be continued...

[1] Jack Rennert has, in my mind, single-handedly changed the face of poster collecting, poster art and posters in general – he is a prolific author of books about Posters, is the founder of a New York-based poster gallery and auction house, and is both a scholar and a gentleman.

[2] Posters of the Belle Epoque: The Wine Spectator Collection, Jack Rennert, Wine Spectator Press, New York, 1990 ISBN 0-9664202-1-7

[3] Ibid.


[5] . “Sex has been employed in advertising since the beginning of advertising. (…)  In 1885, W. Duke & Sons inserted trading cards into cigarette packs that featured sexually provocative starlets. Duke grew to become the leading cigarette brand by 1890.[5]

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