NEW YORK — On Dec. 16, 2009, Swann Galleries conducted their annual auction of Rare & Important Art Nouveau Posters. The sale offered many prized turn-of-the-century images by European masters of the art form including Jules Chéret, Alphonse Mucha and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, as well as American artists such as Evelyn Rumsey Cary and Maxfield Parrish. All prices include 20 percent buyer’s premium.
Nicholas Lowry, Swann Galleries President and Director of the Posters department, said, “At least five world-record prices were set as collectors competed for a host of rare and beautiful graphic images. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the high prices for the Courrier Français versions of Jules Chéret’s posters. Previously unrecorded images also sold quite well.”
Those previously unknown images included an early aviation poster by Roger Jourdain, Aérodrome de Vichy, which used silhouettes of a Wright-Ariel biplane and a Voisin biplane to promote a 1909 air show held in Vichy. It sold for $12,000 — an auction record for work by the otherwise unknown artist.
Another previously unknown item was Eugene Grasset’s L’Estampe et l’Affiche, a decorative panel depicting a human representation of “the poster” threatening the “cabinet print,” to deliver the message that the youthful artistic poster would rejuvenate an art market that had relied too long on classic prints, $3,600.
Among the small-format Courrier Francais versions of Jules Chéret’s fanciful posters, two for the Palais de Glace set records; one from the January 28, 1894 supplement, $5,040, the other from March 1, 1896, $5,760. Well-received Chéret images in their original formats were Théâtre de l’Opéra / Carnaval, Paris, 1894, which brought $7,800 and Exposition des Arts Incoherents, Paris, 1886, which sold for a record $3,120.
Also setting records were Alphonse Mucha’s Lefèvre-Utile / Sarah Bernhardt, Paris, 1904, $7,800, and Alfred Choubrac’s Nectar Bourguignon, Paris, 1891, $3,360.
Rounding out the European images were two classic posters by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, which were also the top-priced lots in the auction: Divan Japonais, Paris, 1893, $18,000, and Troupe de Mlle Églantine, 1896, $26,400.
American highlights included Evelyn Rumsey Cary’s Pan-American Exposition / Buffalo, 1901, $7,800, and Woman Suffrage, circa 1905, $5,760; and Maxfield Parrish’s The Century / Midsummer Holiday Number, 1897, $4,080
Photos courtesy Swann Auction Galleries.
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