Posted by karen ETINGIN on March 19, 2011 2 Comments
Shortly after I opened the gallery about 4 years ago, a new client rang the bell. As I waited for him to climb the stairs, I
noticed his height, his elegant and well tailored cashmere coat, and the ease
with which he carried himself. A man who appeared to be in his sixties, with a
full head of grey hair and a formal demeanor, made his way up and slowly bent
down to take off his galoshes. As he straightened up, he put his hand out, introduced
himself and asked if I was the owner of the gallery. When I indicated that I
was, he asked if he could come in and talk about posters and my knowledge of
them. Up until that point, when folks would wander in to the gallery, more
often than not, it was curiosity that had driven them in, but with this man, it
was clear that L’Affichiste had actually been his destination.
walked in and took measure both of the gallery as well as of me. I seem to
remember him asking me very polite questions about how I started collecting,
why I had chosen to open the gallery, how and where I bought and sold my
posters – the usual questions, but phrased very delicately and very precisely.
He looked both grandfatherly as well as a little frightening – a man who was
not to be trifled with, and one who could be deadly serious. When I later
learned that he was a much-respected lawyer with a well-established French
Canadian firm, I was not surprised.
told me the story of how his father’s brother had been an architect in Paris at
the turn of the century, and how when this uncle returned to Quebec, he brought
with him a half dozen posters from Paris. The posters – which he described to
me – had adorned the family cottage in a remote town called Trois Pistols until
the uncle died. At that point the posters were handed down to other family members
– some remained in the cottage, some were dispatched to other locations, one
was water damaged and thrown out by a cleaning lady – and now, 100+ years after
they were printed, according to the gentleman in front of me, they were in need
of repair. From the descriptions of the posters it seemed to me that we were
talking about very famous posters – some by Mucha, others by Steinlen – but
without images, or the posters themselves, there was no way to tell if the
posters were vintage, what state they were in, and if, indeed, they could be
repaired. I told my visitor as much – I said that without seeing the posters
first-hand I couldn’t even hazard a guess as to what he had inherited, what
restoration might be possible, what the repairs might cost – the only way I
might be able to help was to see the posters first-hand. He said that because
of their size they were hard to manage and that he would take what I said under
advisement. He thanked me very much for my time, gave me his business card, shook
my hand very formally, put his galoshes back on and left.
few months later, his wife and her sister-in-law appeared at the gallery
together – each one carrying a large poster in a thin frame. Neither poster had
ever been covered by glass, and both were in very serious states of disrepair.
Water damage, harsh weather (the cabin was not weather proofed), mouse nibbles,
cracked ink and stained and missing parts of the images – if you were looking
for posters which showed every possible sign of neglect and disrepair, these
were excellent examples. They had been nailed to their flimsy frames with
ancient thumb-tacks, they had been trimmed inexpertly, they were cracked and
torn … in short, these were literally shadows of the posters which had been
brought back from Paris a hundred years previously. But underneath all the
grime and dust I could clearly see that both posters were signed in the stone
by Steinlen - one was an iconic
image of Steinlen’s daughter Colette and her favorite cat (1),
both were printed by Steinlen’s official printer of choice, and each was
undeniably the real thing.
‘Antiques Road Show’ moment came when I told the ladies that the last price –
at auction – for the Lait Pur Sterilize poster (Colette and her cat) was close
to $50,000US. Granted, it would take a lot of money, a great deal of time, and
the care and meticulous attention of an expert restorer, but the poster we were
looking at was – if they could afford it – worth the investment. They
consulted, the spoke with their husbands, they thought about it for months, and
then they decided to go forward with the restoration. I respected the delay –
we were, after all, talking about thousands of dollars worth of work, as well
as the complicated negotiations between in-laws as to who would get which
poster (the other poster was interesting, also by Steinlen, but it wasn’t nearly
as significant as the iconic Lait Pur Sterilise) – and in some bizarre way, I
felt honored with the trust and confidence these meticulous people were showing
took two restorers more than a year to bring Colette back to life (2). When
she returned to me, she looked much as she had when she originally came off the
press: clean, pure, and very much as Steinlen had designed her more than a
century before. Both my clients and I were very pleased with the results.
months later my dapper French Canadian lawyer client returned with another
poster rolled under his arm. When I unwrapped it I recognized as a Cheret –
well, more precisely, as a piece of a Cheret (3).
The poster my client presented me with was a variation of a poster Cheret
produced for a company called Saxoleine – producers of lamps and lights in
Belle Epoque Paris. Although Cheret is not one of my favorite artists, I was
familiar enough with his work to recognize that this fragment was roughly one
quarter of its original size, and it too was in sorry shape. I suggested that
it would be less expensive to buy an original, full size Cheret poster of the
same theme – possibly even the same image- than it would be to reconstruct this
poster as we had the Steinlen. But this time the client needed no time to
think. He wanted the work done – it didn’t matter how long it took or how much
I sent it to New York, and again it took months of work to recover and
reconstruct the poster to its original color and beauty. When I finally
received the Cheret from the restorer I called the client to tell him his
poster was ready and we made an appointment for him to come collect it. In the
meanwhile, I had done some research and had printed out for him an image of
what the entire poster had originally looked like – from the piece I had restored
I knew precisely which poster it was. I had placed this image next to his
again, this formal, elegant, tall and distinguished man came to the gallery,
but this time, his reaction upon seeing his restored poster was completely
unexpected – both to him as well as to me. He looked at it, and looked at the
image I had printed out for him. He looked up at me, and looked again at his
poster. When he began to speak, he had tears in his eyes. “I remember now”, he
said, haltingly, “I remember it was in grandmama’s house, under the stairs… and
when we had a leak, the ‘homme a tout faire’
cut it out of the frame and tacked it back on the wall so we could still enjoy
it. I remember it now…” Suddenly, he was a little boy again, in his ancestral
home, looking up at this Cheret poster that must have, at the time, been
colorful and beautiful and lush. And he remembered the smells of the house and
the sounds of it, and all of that came tumbling out of the mouth of this
reserved and usually reticent lawyer in short, breathless bursts… It was the
poster that brought it back to him – this fragment of a poster which had been
produced more than a hundred years previously, and which had been in his
grandmother’s home. A poster which had long been forgotten and rolled up in an
attic, and which now was able to bring this older man back to his childhood
more clearly than anything else had in a very long time.
I think of posters, and their power, this is the story I tell most often. It
gives me goose bumps every time because it is real, and to me it shows the
awesome power that posters have to evoke a time, an idea or a memory. Not every
poster can bring you back to your youth, nor is every poster significant. But I
believe that there is something inherent in this art form which I love that
manages to bridge history, memory and the desire to understand both that transcends
the images of the posters themselves. That is why I opened L’Affichiste, and
it’s why I love walking into my gallery every day.
 Colette is featured in a number of Steinlen works, and as a cat
lover, he managed to populate many of his posters with his pets. His Chat Noir
poster is as classic as the Lait Pur Sterilise.
 Vintage posters
are most often lined on linen – literally glued to the fabric to help them
maintain their physical integrity. When these posters were initially produced,
they were intended to be ephemeral – to last a few weeks posted on a kiosk
outdoors – and were printed on the cheapest newsprint available. When my
client’s poster was removed from it’s original linen to be re-lined, it
disintegrated into small pieces and had to be painstakingly put back together
like a jigsaw puzzle.
 Its creator,
Jules Cheret, is known by many as the father of the French poster – the man who
is credited with modernizing the printing press, the manner in which posters
were created, the colors with which they were printed – and an artist with an
instantly recognizable style. Cheret loved women and drew them with fluff and
froth, so much so that the women in his posters were called Cherettes.
 Literally ‘the man who did everything’, i.e. the handyman
Posted by karen ETINGIN on March 18, 2011 0 Comments
When I started collecting posters, I knew very little other than there were some posters I liked and some I didn't. Cappiello, Mucha, Steinlen, Cheret - these names meant nothing to me. But after almost 25 years in the poster collecting and dealing world, I have started to look at these men (because it was largely men who designed posters) as some of the most talented, driven and forward-thinking artists of their time.
Cappiello was one of the first poster designers who recognized that the message - and the way it is delivered - was almost as important (if not more important) than the product itself. His unique style and use of colour was later copied extensively, but his first works show such a clear determination and understanding of marketing and product-driven which modern marketeers could certainly learn from.
One of Cappiello's first contracts in Paris (in 1899) was to create a portfolio of pochoirs of some of the lading actresses of the time in the roles and costumes for which they were famous. Although these works differ in style and content from his later posters, if you look closely you can clearly see how he uses he least possible amount of lines and detail to get his message across. (We have the entire set of pochoirs in the gallery and here in our on line shop at laffichiste.com). He uses humour, colour, small but startling details - all to the greatest effect....
His larger posters - Nil, Veuve Amiot, Cachou Lajaunie are amongst the most iconic - all show an evolution in style and confidence which is unmatched (at least in my mind) amongst other poster artists. I feel honoured and pleased to showcase his work at L'Affichiste...
Posted by karen ETINGIN on March 17, 2011 0 Comments
We LOVE Italian poster designers! Whether it is Cappiello (who was ITalian-born), or Mauzan (who's maquettes we feel honoured to have in the gallery and in our on-line shop), or Xanti (just look at our Princeps carton), or Testa who produced this wonderful poster for Carpano, we think that Italians have a certain view of the Dolce Vita that is so apparent in their works...
Just type in 'italy' in the search bar and see some of our Italian selections - we are sure you'll agree they are fantastico!!
Posted by karen ETINGIN on March 01, 2011 0 Comments
And in some of Montreal's finest homes and businesses, when we have the chance, we love to get our hands dirty - but not the posters!! Today we installed posters - large and small - in a neighbourhood business (the kitchen go-to design store on Notre Dame called 3R) for their grand opening... our posters look great! Their kitchens are a wonderful backdrop for our babies - whether it is the classic Biscuits Lu, our travel posters for the French Alps, a pair of Art Deco Erte prints... everything looks fantastic!
Some of our global clients are kind enough to send us images of how our posters look once they get to far off destinations like Australia, Thailand and Switzerland - we are always happy to see how our posters look in their new homes... so if you want to send us one of your favourite poster pics, go right ahead...
Posted by karen ETINGIN on February 28, 2011 1 Comment
One of the things I like best about posters is how they can make any space better: more lively, more colourful, more meaningful, and more fun. Dollar for dollar I think it would be hard - if not impossible - to get as much 'bang for your buck' as you can with posters - they cover a lot of wall space, they are vintage, and they are fab!
Over the last year or so we have been asked to place our posters in a variety of designer showrooms, new residential projects, and this week, in a wonderful new kitchen design space opening just around the corner from the gallery, down the street on Notre Dame. Le Groupe 3R is headed by two young, stylish and experienced kitchen designers, and their clientele seems to be as well-heeled, refined and detail-oreinted as they are - check out their site, at legroupe3r.com (and if you're in the neighbourhood, stop by to see their incredible kitchens... the store opens for real tomorrow, but if you peek through the windows now you'll get a very good sense of just how good they are!)
Posted by karen ETINGIN on February 18, 2011 0 Comments
This website has been a labour of love - and no small amount of aggravation! - but, by the amount of hits and good comments (and some great suggestions from those of you who have been kind enough to go through it with a fine tooth comb), I think the efforts have been well worth it. What we wanted to do was to make a site which was fairly easy to navigate, which was a showcase for the items we have in the gallery, and to give enough (but not too much) information... Clearly, if you want to know more about a particular piece we will be happy to tell you all about it, but I didn't want to bore anyone... The pictures are up-to-date and of the actual pieces we have (as opposed to some other galleries who show pictures of other folks items), the research is specific, and the love and passion we have for our posters is, I think, evident.
Let us know if there is something you think we should change, add or delete - and let us know which your favourite piece is. We're all ears!