November 4, 2002
4:37 AM   Subscribe

You probably remember him best for his famous green devil, tempting you with the esoteric delight of evil absinthe*, or the familiar image of the jester pushing the pleasures of Bitter Campari. Called by some the "father of the modern poster", and even the "father of advertising", Italian-born Leonetto Cappiello created over 1,000 memorable posters during his 40-year career in belle-epoque and fin-de-siecle Paris, and a quick look at a collection of his work quickly reminds us how enduring both his images and his basic concepts have been. (more...)
posted by taz (15 comments total)
Arriving on the scene shortly after the death of Toulouse Lautrec and the departure of Alphonse Mucha, this young, self-taught artist couldn't have suspected that the City of Light was just ripe for the taking, but so it was, and his career was jump-started when the caricatures that he drew of Parisian celebrities were regarded with uncharacteristic favour by the stars themselves; the opportunity to create a cover design for "Frou-Frou Magazine" soon followed, signifying the opening salvo of his tremendous success. Cappiello's most memorable images may be for high-life luxury items such as a cigarettes and a wide variety of upscale spirits, but he was also brilliant as a propagandist for the wonders of the modern age, though his genius could just as easily be turned toward more mundane items, glorifying everything from biscuits to bouillon. In fact, his fabulous brand for Kraus Chocolat proved so durable that it is still in use today, 100 years later.

Cappiello once said "surprise is the foundation of advertising; it is its necessary condition", yet, aside from his trademark employment of whimsy and the element of the unexpected, there are certain other "Cappiellion" motifs that we can rely on finding in his work, namely his engagingly surreal harlequin figures and the dependable allure of a Titian-haired beauty.

*btw, did you know there was a little-known, yet equally infernal forerunner to his famous green absinthe devil?
posted by taz at 4:39 AM on November 4, 2002

Nope, never saw any of those pictures before that I can recall.
posted by mischief at 4:50 AM on November 4, 2002

I have a small print of the green absinthe devil. It's one of my favorite pictures.
posted by eilatan at 4:59 AM on November 4, 2002

Every poster shop I have ever walked into has tons of these prints on display, and I always see them every year in my school's union during the poster sale. They seem to sell quite well. I always have a good chuckle when I visit a someone that has an artsy French print and the mandatory dorm room poster of Belushi guzzling Jack Daniel's from Animal House...
The clash of culture...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 5:23 AM on November 4, 2002

wow, taz - between this great posting and plep's, I can see I am going to have trouble focusing on work today. I love this era of poster art, and have seen a few of Capiello's more popular works here and there, but really knew little of him or how extensive his body of work is - so thanks for all these great links!
posted by madamjujujive at 7:07 AM on November 4, 2002

Great, generous post, taz. Thanks!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:15 AM on November 4, 2002

No really comment, just a superb post. The green devil does make me want to quaff some absithe though.
posted by laukf at 9:57 AM on November 4, 2002

No real comment, just a superb post. The green devil does make me want to quaff some absithe though.
posted by laukf at 9:58 AM on November 4, 2002

Aha... I see these things at restaurants all the time, now I know the source. Cool.
posted by Foosnark at 10:31 AM on November 4, 2002

I love this post. I never realized all these images were the work of the same guy. Thanks!

Even today, you'll see lots of beautiful and arresting images in cafes or the metro in Paris. Poster art, and commercial art in general, seems so ephemeral, but in some ways it's more dynamic and interesting than the more institutionalized visual arts. I wonder if Cappiello got any respect from the art establishment in his day.

As a current example, I thought the art in this post blew away the art in this post. Does anyone else agree with me that commercialism seems to have a positive influence on art (at least compared with the gallery-museum circuit)? And why is that?

In a different style, my favorite French poster artist is AM Cassandre (although my link-fu is not the equal of the great master taz).
posted by fuzz at 10:46 AM on November 4, 2002

I like Polish posters even better.
posted by atom128 at 10:52 AM on November 4, 2002

Since someone mentioned absinthe, i just HAVE to share this... ;-)
posted by muppetboy at 11:02 AM on November 4, 2002

Sorry, i thought it would create a hyperlink...

posted by muppetboy at 11:03 AM on November 4, 2002

Does anyone else agree with me that commercialism seems to have a positive influence on art (at least compared with the gallery-museum circuit)? And why is that?

Fuzz, I don't know, but I sometimes suspect that the self-imposed, self-conscious weight of the fine arts and its academic and critical circle may be rendering its expressions increasingly "artificial", especially when compared to outsider or ephemeral art, which often displays a vitality that we have been missing on the higher planes. However, I think we may be in early stages of a kind of upheaval in the arts; the general availability of new technologies and the mediums and venues they offer seem to be doing some re-landscaping of the playing field, and we are seeing a lot more blurring and cross-pollination with what has been considered graphic, commercial, or design arts. The future should be interesting...
posted by taz at 12:29 AM on November 5, 2002

Your explanation feels right to me. Institutional art basically speaks to itself, in a closed circuit. Here's hoping your optimism is right, and that you'll be linking to it when you see it.
posted by fuzz at 6:56 AM on November 5, 2002

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