The Story of Herminie Cadolle, Innovator of the Modern Bra

By Faith Duval –

Many of the works of vintage advertising art on our website were created to advertise lingerie, such as this gorgeous piece of vintage art created in 1937 for Cadolle:


The company is named after its founder, Herminie Cadolle (1845–1926), who Life magazine called the inventor of the modern bra.

In fact, the bra had no single inventor. Many different people, all around the same time, had roughly the same idea – and Herminie Cadolle was among them.

Corsets had been briefly unpopular during the French Revolution of 1789, when they were associated with the aristocracy. But they soon returned to prominence as the political mood settled again. It would take another revolution to conclusively unseat the corset.

Continue Reading

Exploring the Work of Czech Visionary Alphonse Mucha

Post by on January 15, 2017

By Faith Duval –

Alphonse Mucha was an artist whose work in Paris at the turn of the twentieth century defined the style that came to be known as Art Nouveau. Yet Mucha rejected the label, insisting that he followed no artistic fashions and was inspired by his native country’s folk art and his own aesthetic preferences alone. A Czech nationalist, Mucha eventually saw his political desires come to fruition in the formation of an independent Czechoslovakian nation-state after the First World War.

Continue Reading

The Belle Époque and the Culture of Parisian Advertising Art


A Parisian Cafe by Ilya Repin, 1875

By Faith Duval –

The commercial art of the 1940s and 1950s, to which Vintage Advertising Art is dedicated, represents the swansong of the grand tradition of French advertising art. That tradition can be traced back to the poster art of late nineteenth century Paris. Paris at this time was going through the Belle Époque, the so-called ‘beautiful era’, a long period of peacetime prosperity spanning the 1870s to the First World War. It has come to be seen as a time of enjoyment and innocence, predating the horrors of world war and the economic convulsions to come.
Among the pioneers of the late-century poster mania were Jules Chéret, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Alphonse Mucha. Chéret’s invention of the colour lithography technique in the mid-1860s was instrumental in turning the boulevards of Paris into virtual art galleries, where passers-by delighted in seeing this new, colourful form of modern art displayed. The posters’ subjects included the exciting night-life of Paris, its cabarets and theatres, and the newly flourishing luxury goods market – its fashion and fragrance available in the new department stores springing up over the city, consequences of the heady boomtime.
These path-breaking poster artists were influenced by a myriad of sources, including Japanese ukiyo-e, the woodblock prints which depicted its own world of luxury consumption and entertainment enjoyed by the merchant class. From this source comes the absence of shading, the use of block colours and thick black outlines characteristic of many Belle Époque posters. Japan had opened its doors to the West in the 1850s for the first time in centuries, and despite its unmistakeably Parisian character, poster art as much as any other cultural phenomena of the time reflected an increase in world cultural exchange owing to a period of expanding global trade and transportation.


Quinquina Dubonnet, Apéritif, Dans tous les Cafés by Jules Chéret, 1895

Belle Époque Paris could boast a vast cultural wealth – the impressionist composers, Debussy, Satie and Saint-Saens lived and worked there along with the painters Picasso and Matisse; Stravinsky first achieved international renown with his ballet scores performed in Paris; the novelists Victor Hugo, Emile Zola and Marcel Proust all developed their radical visions of industrial modernity within its perimeter. Its brasseries, cabarets and cafes were beloved by tourists and sophisticated locals alike. Paris at that time was called ‘Ville Lumière’, the city of light, famed for the rows of gaslights that shone along its grands boulevards, and then for the pioneering electric lights which came into use in the 1870s. It was also, incidentally, home to the first neon advertising, displayed in 1912. During that era Paris hosted three universal expositions; in 1878, 1889 and 1900 – huge events celebrating the art, fashion, commerce and technology of the city.
Amidst this cultural fecundity, Chéret’s colourful art posters elevated the advertising poster to a work of art. Initially regarded as monstrosities by critics, the efforts of Chéret, Toulouse-Lautrec and others turned the commercial poster into a genuine art form, celebrated by writers and featured in exhibitions and books. In 1896 Chéret capitalised on the mania for posters by bringing out a monthly collection of the finest art posters printed in miniature form for private, home viewing by subscribers. It was the connoisseurs, the collectors and entrepreneurs who preserved the poster tradition.


Lance Parfum Rodo by Alphonse Mucha, 1896

There are notable parallels between Belle Époque Paris and post-war Paris, where a revival of fashion, luxury consumer culture and advertising art came together as a beacon to the world: peace and newfound economic prosperity, with an attendant cultural optimism, were hallmarks of this era. Without the collectors, critics and dealers of old, the posters of the Belle Époque might have fallen into obscurity. The same is true of the commercial art that followed in the 1940s and 1950s advertisements for fashion and luxury goods. We hope that our work at Vintage Advertising Art helps to preserve and protect that cultural tradition for the future.


The Influence of Art Nouveau on French Advertising Art


By Faith Duval –

Art Nouveau was a movement which lasted from the 1870s to the beginning of the First World War. Many who were paragons of the golden age of advertising art posters were stalwarts of the movement, such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Théophile Steinlen, Jules Chéret, Pierre Bonnard and Alphonse Mucha.

Among the key features of this new style, influenced by the British Arts and Crafts movement, were inspiration by the shapes of plant life, emphasis on curves over straight lines, and the depiction of glamour and femininity.

Continue Reading

Women In Post-War France

By Faith Duval –

Many of the vintage ads on our site are selling products to women. A little historical context can help us understand why certain products were marketed to women and why certain visual styles were chosen in these 1940s and 1950s advertisements, rather than others. What was life like for women in post-war France?

Although French women achieved the vote in 1945, there was little corresponding challenge to traditional gender roles and inequality persisted. In fact, French women saw a reassertion of these norms, something which is shown by the ads for household goods from the period. It’s also shown in the changing fashions. We have already seen in a recent blog post how fashion developed in the post-war years- a change sparked most dramatically by Christian Dior’s 1947 show where a journalist coined the term ‘New Look’ as the name for this revivification of feminine style.

Continue Reading

An History of Consumption in Post-War France

By Faith Duval –

After the Second World War, France experienced three decades of extraordinary economic growth.
That period came to be known as Les Trentes Glorieuses, ‘the thirty glorious years’. Similar growth occurred in countries throughout the Western world during what economists dubbed ‘the long boom’.

Western Europe and Japan saw extraordinarily high growth and full employment in these years. Between 1947 and 1973 France experienced an average of 5% growth per year. The new leisure civilisation which came into being is reflected in many of the vintage ads of the period which we have collected on our site.

Continue Reading

The Story of Chanel No. 5

By Laureen Simons –

Chanel No. 5 is not for nothing one of the most famous perfumes in the world today.

But this iconic fragrance may have been born by pure accident.

Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel was leading the fashion world in the 1920s. An immensely talented designer and business woman, Chanel was an icon of the Jazz Age. An idol to flapper girls everywhere, Chanel combined the qualities of the respectable society lady and the mistress in one. When she decided to conquer the world of perfumery at the beginning of the 1920s, she wanted to create a fragrance that represented both those elements of her character. She wanted a perfume for the modern woman, more liberated than ever before after the end of the Great War and the victories of the women’s movement.

Continue Reading

Spotlight on René Gruau, a Giant of Fashion Illustration

Post by on November 1, 2016

By Faith Duvall –

In this article we take a closer look at the life and work of René Gruau, an artist behind some of the most sought-after vintage ads. Born in 1909 to an Italian count, he eschewed the military path set out by his father, becoming interested in art at an early age. After his parents’ separation, he moved to Paris with his mother, later taking her surname. Maria Gruau strongly influenced the feminine ideal seen in his pictures, and he would often flick through the fashion magazines she left scattered around the house. Enticed by the world of haute couture, he taught himself to draw and became a precocious talent, selling his first work to a French magazine at the age of 14. By his late teens Gruau’s advertising art was already being published in Italy, France and the United States.

Continue Reading

Vertes & Schiaparelli: Whimsical avant-garde

Post by on October 2, 2016

By Rachel Cohen –

Elsa Schiaparelli remains one of the most enigmatic and boundary-pushing fashion designers of the early 20th century. Her designs made fashion into a form of art, and even her cosmetic and perfume bottles were inspired by avant-garde artists at the time. While she collaborated with many artists, her work with Marcel Vertes transcended both design and art, and the vintage ads the two worked on continue to be highly sought after objects.

Continue Reading

Eric’s Art Legacy

By Jenny Clark –

Eric’s most famous works can be found in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Coty cosmetics ads. He made femininity a trend. He was an American fashion and advertising illustrator from the 1910s through to the 1940s. His name was Carl Erickson (Eric) which became legendary and is always associated with vintage illustration art. Having signed his work “Eric”, people all over the world knew that Eric was one of the most prominent fashion illustrators known for his drawings of people in fashionable settings.

Continue Reading