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|The height of the absinthe boom in the late 19th century, coincided with the rise of the large lithographic advertising poster as a
powerful commercial and artistic medium - pioneered by the work of Jules Chéret. Some of the greatest poster artists of the
period - Cappiello, Privat-Livemont, Lefevre, Tamagno - created famous images to advertise the absinthe grand marques.
Fortunately, the greatest of them all, Toulouse Lautrec, never produced an absinthe-specific poster, thus thoughtfully sparing
future generations of absinthiana collectors the necessity of a potentially financially ruinous purchase....
Scroll down this page for more background on the lithographic printing technique used to produce these posters.
We're proud that Allposters.com, the biggest poster retailer in the world, has selected more than a 100 images based on original
posters, prints and advertising cartons in the Virtual Absinthe Museum for inclusion in their range of fine reproduction vintage
posters. They're available worldwide through all the Allposters and Art.com sites, or right here, by clicking any of the links
below. Most of the images are also available from our CafePress store.
A previously undocumented advertising image for
Absinthe Picardine, probably originally published in the
journal L'Illustration. The background shows La
Corniche aux Catalans in Marseilles.
From a cache recently discovered in Switzerland, a
medium format indoor poster for Distilleries Montbart,
designed by M.Ringel. 0.7m x 0.5m.
One of the most iconic art nouveau images of all, this
1896 image for Absinthe Robette by the Belgian posterist
Privat-Livemont has spawned a million reproductions.
Another famous poster also produced in 1896, designed
by Nicholas Tamagno for Cusenier. The bon vivant
enjoying his Absinthe Oxygénée is the French comedian
Joseph-Francois Dailly (1839 - 1897). 1.28m x 0.95m.
Tamagno's 1892 poster for Absinthe Terminus used the
likenesses of two famous stage personalities of the day: Constant
Coquelin and Sarah Bernhardt. Bernhardt was furious that her
image was used without permission and successfully sued the
manufacturers - as a result the posters had to be removed from
the walls of Paris. 1.28m x 0.98m (50" x 38") format
A striking 1895 2 sheet poster showing
Absinthe Mugnier's famous desert legionnaire
by Lucien Lefèvre, a pupil of Chéret.
Format 2.50m x 0.86m (98" x 34").
|A circa 1895 2 sheet lithographic poster
for Absinthe Cusenier, measuring
1.90m x 0.71m (74" x 28").
|Poster for the Toulouse-based Absinthine, probably an absinthe substitute.
An unrecorded lithographic poster
for Rosinette, Absinthe Rosé
Oxygénée, (37" x 50"), printed by
Camis around 1900.
This is the only know historical
reference to a rosé absinthe.
The often reproduced Absinthe Blanqui poster - a
quintessential art-nouveau image, heavily influenced by
the then fashionable vogue for orientalism. The original
is rare, with only three surviving copies recorded.
The original artists sketches for this poster are also in
the Virtual Museum.
The height of the absinthe boom in the late 19th century, coincided with the rise of the large lithographic advertising poster as an
important commercial and artistic medium.
The basic techniques for lithographic printing were first developed in the late eighteenth century, but were initially unsuited to large
format poster production. Such posters as there were, were usually quite small and produced either by woodblock or simple metal
engraving. Colour was rarely used, and there was little attempt to integrate text and illustrations. From the 1830 though a series of
technical advances made stone lithography an increasingly attractive technique, both because of the subtle and multi-dimensional
colours that could be achieved, and because of the freedom it afforded the artist, who could draw directly on the polished stone
surface. The father of the modern poster was Jules Cheret, who in the late 19th century took the technique to technical and artistic
heights previously unimagined, producing vivid, fully integrated advertising posters in extremely large formats, usually printed in
multiple passes from three carefully aligned stones, one for each of the three primary colours.
Stone lithography was based on the use of large limestone blocks, which were sanded to a smooth perfectly flat surface. On to this
the artist drew his design, using a grease crayon, which was absorbed by the porous surface of the limestone. Once transferred to
the printing press, the surface of the stone was moistened with water - those areas not covered with the grease crayon soaked up
the water and became wet, while the greasy lines of the drawing itself were water-repellent, and remained dry. Then an oil-based
ink was applied with a roller - the greasy parts of the stone picked up the ink, the wet parts didn't. Finally damp paper was carefully
placed on top of the ink covered stone, and even pressure applied by running the whole thing through a specially designed press.
The entire process was then repeated for the second primary colour, and then for the third.
The combination of the three passes - red, blue, yellow - produced, in the hand of a master craftsman, a finished print with colours
both subtle and intense, and shadings of almost infinite variety. In many respects the quality of colour printing achieved by Cheret
and the other great masters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries has never been equalled or surpassed since. Although there
are still artists working in this medium, some of the original techniques have been lost, and printing presses to handle the huge
stone blocks are no longer manufactured – one of the reasons that, fortunately, fakes or forgeries are not generally a problem in
The Absinthe Robette poster shown above, with its wonderfully subtle and translucent shades of green, is technically speaking, a
particularly superlative example of this lithographic printing process.
Cheret's innovation took Paris, then France and then the world by storm. Never before had words and graphics been so tightly and
seamlessly integrated, and never before had such powerful and effective images been so cheap to produce. These posters had
ushered in the age of modern advertising.
Building on Cheret's work, a handful of artists adopted the medium and elevated the advertising poster to fine art. The pioneer, in
1891, was Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. His first poster, Moulin Rouge, is a masterpiece and was recognised as such within two
decades of its initial production. Today it's one of the most sought after and valuable of all posters. In 1894, Alphonse Mucha, a
Czech artist working in Paris, ushered in the era of Art Nouveau poster design, with a sinuous and haunting style influenced by the
Pre-Raphaelites, the Arts and Crafts Movement, and the then vogue for Orientalism. This style was to dominate the Parisian scene
for at least the next decade, and inspire several worthy successors to Mucha, chief amongst them the Belgian posterist Henri Privat-
Within a few years of Cheret's first production, the most striking advertising posters were already being collected as art objects in
their own right, and in the 1890's the famous "Maitres de l'Affiche" series provided small format versions of the most famous
designs specifically for the collector market. Notwithstanding this however, the overwhelming majority of posters were destroyed in
actual use - mounted on walls or sidings and then ripped away when the next new image became available. While the posters
were originally produced in editions that usually numbered in the hundreds or even thousands, very few survive in their original
state. Those that survive in good condition today, usually originate from printer’s archives discovered many decades later.
To buy rare original vintage absinthe posters visit our sister site, Absinthe Originals.
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