French Poster Art Travels to New Heights
Few collectibles have aged as well as French poster art from early in the last century. After more than a hundred years, the seductive lure of these brightly colored and beautifully drawn posters attract a wide range of collectors including those who can probably afford original art. Vintage posters are a popular segment of the art print collectible area, and of all the poster categories, French travel posters are some of the most eagerly sought.
Signed French Travel Posters
Collectors love posters created by familiar artists of the early 1900s such as Georges Dorival, Constant Duval, Julien Lacaze. Later posters that date from the Art Deco Era featuring the likes of A.M. Cassandre and Roger Broders are also popular. While as a general rule, posters by these identifiable and prolific artists tend to bring the highest sums, dealers caution collectors against buying solely for name, as some of the most highly prized posters are the most beautiful, and were “one-offs” produced by artists whose names rarely appeared again. Collectors should consider each poster on its own merits, and buy for content and condition.
Values of French Travel Posters
Values for travel posters have been rising steadily since the first U.S. poster auction in 1979 at Swann Galleries. At an August 2011 sale of travel and vintage posters at Christie’s, 298 lots sold for a total of $1.27 million.
According to poster expert and dealer, Jack Rennert, the value of a poster is based upon four criteria: artist, subject, rarity and condition. Due to age, small tears and pin holes are common and acceptable, but do bring down the value and collectors prefer examples with the vivid colors of the originals.
Posters set in the south of France fetch premium prices. Collectors love Monte Carlo, Monaco and Nice, especially views with beaches and palm trees. If there are people on the beach, even better, and if the sunbathers include beautiful women, better still. If the poster is of a popular destination and subject with only a few known copies, the price can approach that of original artwork.
Brief History of French Travel Posters
These posters were produced as advertising, not art, and as such, were manufactured with the idea of a limited existence. This limited supply creates high demand, although the posters were popular inexpensive art almost immediately as soon as the multi-color stone lithography process (pioneered by Jean Cheret at the end of the 19th Century) came into widespread use. The popular posters were produced in vibrant colors to advertise everything from cigarettes to champagne, and by the 1890s, railways were plastering their stations throughout France with oversized posters of beautiful people in exotic destinations. Although people collected them almost from the start, two world wars have taken their toll on extant examples.
-by p4A Contributing Editor Susan Cramer.