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"The Poster"


Paul Berthon

In May of 1899, Berthon created this cover image for the publication The Poster, Volume 2, Number 6. The Poster was an illustrated monthly chronicle out of London that featured works by, among others, Henri Privat-Livemont and the Beggarstaffs, two important graphic designers who made their commercial debut in 1894.

The image portrays a young woman with flowing blond hair reading an advertisement for The Poster’s upcoming issue. The young woman is encircled by large sunflower-like blossoms. The curving of her hair, neck, and fingers is repeated over and over again without becoming overwhelming due to the stylized reduction of the image’s elements, as well as Berthon’s muted palette. Thick outlining of the forms and the figure’s unusual angle and placement bring a sense of motion and realism to a visually complex piece.

Paul Berthon is best known for his decorative panels featuring women in muted colors, often playing medieval instruments. He worked mostly in lithography, drawing the images to the stone himself and remaining highly involved in the printing process. Often he requested multiple proofs of an image before its final production so he could re-evaluate colors and shapes.

A student of Grasset, Berthon created plates and vases for two to three years, which were produced by Villeroy & Boch. The processes used to create these pieces distorted many of Berthon’s figures and he eventually learned to keep things simple. Berthon created his first poster thanks to Grasset as well. When contacted by Lemercier (the matchmaker between Mucha and Sarah Bernhardt) to create a poster for the Folies Bergère, Grasset suggested Berthon.



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