Each month the Artophile offers essential advice to art collectors in the form of answers to their most frequently asked questions relating to affordable investment art. To have your question answered on this monthly feature page, click on Contact Us and make your request.

This month's topic...

Your Hosts: M. Michel Dejaegher, Consul General of France for Vancouver
Joanne Bergen, International Art Consultant (www.artophile.com)

The Art of the Pochoir and Art Deco Illustration

1900: The death of Oscar Wilde, grand doyen of the outrageous, indefatigable arbiter of taste and style: "Either this wallpaper goes, or I do!" (Which he did.)

1900: Maurice Dufrene's "Un Intérieur Moderne" successfully establishes the pochoir stencil/watercolour process in art book publishing and interior design.

1901: The death of Queen Victoria closes a period of stiff and somber protocol. Over the following years:

•  Increasing pressure for votes for women. The Feminist movement has its first faint rumblings.
•  Rising trade with Japan brings an influx of Eastern design elements.
•  A passion for Chinoiserie, especially Coromandel lacquer screens.
•  A passion for Persian and Turkish exotica à la Arabian Nights: "lazy chic", as exemplified in mounds of richly coloured pillows, the recreation of a harem atmosphere.
•  A passion for the tropical: palm trees and parrots were de rigeur, as was the fascination for native costumes, masks, music and sculpture.
•  A passion for Latin American dance, and the importation of the boldly sensual Tango.
•  A great generation of French composers: Debussy, Poulenc, Milhaud, Satie and Ravel all reflected the New Spirit, the musical breakaway from the confines of the past.

1908: The European premiere of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes (Scheherazade) in Paris : an immediate sensation and a turning point in modernism for all the arts and applied arts.


…and against this rich background , the most enterprising new Parisian couturier of the day, Paul Poiret, introduced himself to high society and the crowned heads of Europe in his self-promoting catalogue (actually a luxury production in the best French bibliographic tradition)….

Les Robes de Paul Poiret : Illustrated in 1908 by the young artist Paul Iribe in original, hand-coloured stencil prints, this first landmark album of Art Deco fashion plates thoroughly usurped the Belle Epoque and marked the beginning of a bold and liberalized image of women through fashion. A new spirit of freedom and expression soon spread into all related areas: jewelry and furniture makers, milliners, architecture and interior design. While it was only a limited edition of 250 copies, this publication of "Les Robes de Paul Poiret" was, in effect, the Birth of Art Deco.

Following Poiret's second successful publication in 1911 of "Les Choses de Paul Poiret" (edition of 1,000 plus a deluxe edition of 300), for which he hired George Lepape to be his collaborative illustrator, there began to appear a series of extraordinary colour pochoir print magazines and limited edition folios. The first of these was the famous and enduring:

"Gazette du Bon Ton" : Published monthly from 1912 to 1925 (after which time it was rolled into "Vogue" Magazine). Gazette du Bon Ton had a French and international run of about 2000 copies per month, and appealed to the urban, well-bred leisure class of the jazz age. The articles concerned entertainment with emphasis on the carefree: travel, theatre, restaurants and haute couture.

The Gazette du Bon Ton attracted many of the leading artists of the period - Dufy, Lepape, Barbier, Thayaht, Marty, Martin, Brissaud, Benito, Drian - all of whom designed the plates for the top Paris fashion houses such as Worth, Lanvin, Paquin and Poiret. Their artworks reflect with charm, wit, whimsy and disarming accuracy the invigorating New Lifestyle. Even in its day these pochoir fashion illustrations were competitively collected and displayed with great appreciation.

Other important and enduring albums of the Art Deco period include:

Modes et Manières d'Aujourd'hui : 1912 - 1922. Limited to only 300 copies, its audience was the very wealthy. Each annual issue featured text of poetry, fashion and entertainment, illustrated in a series of 10 pochoirs. Each edition was devoted exclusively to one artist exclusively, including Lepape, Barbier, Martin, Marty, Simeon, and Bonfils.

Journal des Dames et des Modes : In the two years of its existence (1912 - 1914) the Journal produced a sum total of only 1,270 images. As well, these superb, refined copperplate etchings coloured by pochoir contained lifestyle, leisure, poetry and fashion articles. Text contributors included Jean Cocteau, Comtesse de Noailles and Anatole France. The Journal illustrated fashion from the major Parisian houses and often used many of the same artists as Gazette du Bon Ton including Lepape, Barbier, Dammy, Wegener and Brunelleschi.

Les Feuillets d'Art : A pochoir artistic project by Lucien Vogel, editor of Gazette du Bon Ton, which appeared intermittently between 1919 and 1920. These full-page plates were not restricted to reflect just the fashion houses, but rather accommodated short stories, serialized novels and poems. They strongly reflected the New Spirit and incorporated the top artists: Barbier, Benito, Cito, Wegener, Domergue, Marthe Romme.

La Guirlande d'Art: 1919 - 1920, Umberto Brunelleschi editor, edition size 800. A theatrical, romantic, highly stylized collection of superbly coloured pochoirs, with Brunelleschi himself performing at his best. Other contributors were Cito, Valée and the ever-prolific Grand Master, Barbier.

Art Gout Beauté : Published monthly from 1920 - 1933, this magazine was less "elitist" than similar publications to date and used lesser quality paper. It was quite pragmatic in conception, as it was owned by a textile company to promote its textiles, along with French fashion. Nonetheless it featured the top design houses: Lanvin, Lelong, Molyneaux, Jean Patou, Poiret, Worth etc. The artists were not given individual credit per image, even though the depiction could have been from any of those who worked for Gazette du Bon Ton. It also appeared in Spanish and English editions. Its demise in 1933 signaled the end of the best of pochoir illustration. After this time the new illustrative periodicals turned to alternate methods of colour production which were less labour intensive, less time-consuming and ultimately less expensive.

As a result of the proliferation and popularity of the pochoir print, fashion designers such as Worth, Poiret, Doucet, Paquin, Lanvin and Vionnet achieved celebrity status and acquired unprecedented influence as cultural arbiters. What began as intimate French salons had now become a national industry. Such sumptuous fashion catalogues also launched an unprecedented huge advertising industry with great international success, combining French elegance and a new chic audacity worthy of the Folies Bergère.

Artophile Include Bottom