The French tourism posters represent an unrivalled recipe of charm, wherein the subject of France, beloved for its joie de vivre and enchanting atmosphere, is highlighted by some of history’s greatest master painters. Many of the posters were printed in the famed print shop of Fernand Mourlot in Paris, where artists like Picasso, Matisse, Miró and Manet found a venue to publish their fine art on a large scale, fostering a lush collaboration between painter and printer.
This is quite evident in Picasso’s Côte d'Azur, a 14-color stone lithograph from 1962 that is shimmering with light like the diamonds on the water it describes. Printed at Mourlot in an edition of 15,000, it is created after his original 1957 painting Studio (Pigeons) (Velazquez), part of a series of views Picasso painted from the window of his studio at Villa La Californie.
"Many of the posters were printed in the famed print shop of Fernand Mourlot in Paris, where artists like Picasso, Matisse, Miró and Manet found a venue to publish their fine art on a large scale, fostering a lush collaboration between painter and printer."
The classic mystique of the French waterfront also gives Normandie: Deauville, Le Bar du Soleil by Kees van Dongen its allure, where a rich sky contrasts the bright light on the beach, inspiring that familiar sensation of romance — this one a first edition print from 1960 and published by the L’Office du Tourisme de France.
A 1975 poster showcasing the Paris Opera takes a detail of Chagall’s 1964 Romeo and Juliette painting from the ceiling of the opera house, allowing the French Tourism Office to advertise their arts performances, their great painters and their age-old themes simultaneously.
And a 1960 print for the National Museum of Modern Art of Raoul Dufy’s Le Paddock à Deauville painting showcases a meaningful combination of a progressive museum’s collection with the spirit of the French countryside, exemplified in his colorful, confident and decorative style.
No French travel poster collection is complete without something from A. M. Cassandre (maybe most well known for his Dubonnet piece), here an offset lithograph reproduction printed in France at a versatile size. The style is unmistakable with his characteristic flat geometric forms and voluminous soft shading that lend a weightless, dream-like mood.
Matisse manages to combine themes of a dancer, the plants on the costume and the energy of the surroundings through his infamous distilled paper-cut shapes in his La Danseuse Creole, a dynamic composition that uses the entire frame. His original work was made in 1950, and this poster again was commissioned by the Tourism Office and printed by Mourlot in 1965 in an edition of 5,000 to encourage travel to Nice and to visit the Musée Matisse.
And to bring a modern light to works deeper in French history, the Tourism Office published advertising posters such as Tapisserie de L'Apocalypse, featuring a detail from the Apocalypse Tapestry, a large medieval set of tapestries commissioned by Louis I in the late 1300s; or a detail from a 15th century triptych in the Moulins Cathedral by Jean Hey, the ‘Master of Moulins.’