Published: August 3, 2021
NEW YORK CITY – The 84th rare posters auction from Poster Auctions International on July 20 featured a large roster of masterpieces and rarities from a century of poster design. Included in the collection were Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Modern and contemporary works suited to a variety of interests and styles.
The firm runs Second Chance sales for lots that passed, but at press time it reported a sale total of $1.86 million. Two online platforms were in use for the event and there were also a number of in-gallery bidders.
Once again, bidders showed love for the Belle Époque’s Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939), who capitalized on the beauty of lithography. Nineteen of his most sumptuous works crossed the block, with perennial favorite The Stars, 1902, leading the group and the sale as well, finishing at $120,000. Often referred to as Moon and The Stars, it was painted by the Czech designer and artist and produced as a color lithograph decorative panel comprising four portrait orientation panels in the French Art Nouveau style.
Mucha expressed his attraction to higher ideals by personifying the stars as beautiful women, seen left to right in the illustration as the Moon, the Evening Star, the North Star and the Morning Star.
A total of 500 lots of rare and iconic posters crossed the block in this sale, and there was a good representation of examples by Mucha’s contemporary, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). No higher ideals here. Toulouse-Lautrec favored depicting the seedier side of Parisian nightlife. This auction featured the most comprehensive collection of his works, including La Goulue et sa Sur, 1892, which was bid to $78,000; the 1896 The Ault & Wiborg Co. / Au Concert, which brought $60,000; and the famous Divan Japonais of 1893, which settled at $31,200. La Goulue et sa Sur, the very first limited edition print by Lautrec, was one of 100 signed and numbered copies, with Ancourt’s stamp. Catalog notes state that this print was offered for sale in October 1892 for 20 francs. Shown demurely entering the Moulin Rouge is La Goulue (Louise Weber, 1870-1929) – famously of the cancan Moulin Rouge poster – with her sister, Jeanne Weber.
Much more Mucha was on tap. Fetching $52,800 was the large-format 1896 version of his well-known The Seasons, one of his most enduring sets. Here, states the catalog, Spring is personified as a blonde sylph who seems to be fashioning a makeshift lyre out of a bent green branch and her own hair, with some birds as interested spectators. Summer, a brunette, sits dreamily on the bank of a pond, cooling her feet in the water and resting her head against a bush. Autumn is an auburn lady, making ready to partake of the ripe grape. Winter, her brown hair barely visible as she huddles in a long green cloak, snuggles by the snow-covered tree trying to warm a shivering bird with her breath. Mucha’s Gismonda / Théâtre de la Renaissance, 1894, earned $50,400. Also in the run of top-performing Mucha works were Cycles Perfecta, 1902, $40,800; Job, 1896, $28,800; Reverie, 1898, $26,400; Plume et Primevère, 1899, $22,800; and Salon des Cent / A. Mucha, 1897, $21,600.
A.M. Cassandre, another master of the era, employed striking geometrical forms and forceful perspectives to convey power and awe. Fourteen of his works crossed the block at this sale, including the Art Deco masterwork the 1927 Nord Express, which portrays rail travel’s romance and speed and steamed to $21,600, and the 1931 L’Atlantique, an ocean-going mammoth wall of steel that towers over a minuscule tugboat, topping its high estimate to pull in at $48,000.
From Charles Loupot, two works went to auction: the rare 1938 St Raphaël finding a buyer at $43,000, and a 1929 hand-signed maquette for Valentine earning $21,600.
One of the world’s most famous posters, and an icon of Art Nouveau, Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen’s (1859-1923) Chat Noir sports both a halo and a sinuous tail, creating an image that is also “wicked, subversive, seductive and silly,” according to catalog notes. The large-format 1896 version of Steinlen’s design realized $26,400.
Jack Rennert, president of Poster Auctions International, said, “This auction, collectors proved the enduring charm of Art Nouveau masters, and particularly that of Alphonse Mucha, whose Belle Époque works have a timeless appeal for seasoned and new collectors alike.
There’s no question that Mucha was the star of this sale. But the strength of Art Nouveau works did not diminish the enthusiasm for Art Deco designs, as witnessed by our strong sales of works by Broders, Cassandre and Loupot. And, as always, early designs for the circus continue to excite poster lovers, as evidenced by Pal’s billboard for Lord John Sanger.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. The firm’s next sale is set for Sunday, November 14. For further information, www.posterauctions.com or 212-787-4000.
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