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Art Curatorial Exhibitions

Looking at “Posters of Paris” Through the Lens of Graphic Design

Jules Chéret, (French, 1836–1932), L'Horloge: Les Girard, 1875/1878 or 1880/1881. Color lithograph. Collection of Jim and Sue Wiechmann. Photo by John R. Glembin.
Jules Chéret, (French, 1836–1932), L’Horloge: Les Girard, 1875/1878 or 1880/1881. Color lithograph. Collection of Jim and Sue Wiechmann. Photo by John R. Glembin.

Even though the exhibition Posters of Paris: Toulouse-Lautrec & His Contemporaries may be billed as a fine art retrospective, it also serves as the largest and most extensive graphic design exhibition Milwaukee has ever seen. Featuring posters from the turn of the 20th century, Posters of Paris hearkens back to the roots of the profession. The artworks are situated at a time before “graphic design” was a legitimate term, but well after the world started recognizing the power of arresting visual communication.

And the line-up curator Mary Weaver Chapin has pulled together is impressive. The exhibition includes works by who I’d call the godheads of posters–Jules Chéret and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec to Leonetto Cappiello and Alphonse Mucha. For a casual observer, or a trained graphic designer, there’s no shortage of exuberant eye candy to indulge in.

Posters of Paris will likely leave you drooling for days.