The elegant forms and brilliant colours of Cheret’s advertisements became one of the most admired and iconic of Parisian art, immortalizing the ebullient days of the Belle Époque before with the First World War changed the spirit of Europe forever.
Previously posters for street advertising had been conceived virtually entirely in terms of lettering. Cheret’s revolutionary idea was that the visual impact should be made through pictorial imagery printed in colour lithography. At first Cheret could find no one to back his idea until he met the perfumier Eugene Rimmel in London. Rimmel was attracted by Cheret’s idea, the style of his art and his enthusiasm, and he decided to fund him to establish a colour lithographic printing studio in Paris which would have a press large enough to create the wall-scale images. The Atelier Cheret, which soon took on the name of Imprimerie Chaix, became one of the most important poster studios of the late nineteenth century in Paris.
When Cheret established his poster studio in the 1870’s his studies of fashionable girls, brightly dressed and in stylish poses, became a familiar and much admired aspect of the streets of Paris. Known as Cherettes, elegant, joyous and often daring, these figures influenced an entire generation of women who were limited to two dimensional representations- puritan or prostitute. Cheret himself became one of the most sought-after artists of his generation.
Although Cheret’s first lithographs were for street wall posters, he quickly adapted his work to the smaller format of posters for café interiors etc. Les Affiches Illustrés consisted of a selection of some of the most important of Cheret’s posters by some of Paris’s most influential artists. Printed by the artist in 1896, it served as a kind of retrospective of his oeuvre. Issued in limited numbers, surviving examples are today rare.