Parisian charm accomplished through vintage posters

SAN FRANCISCO — They’re charming, vibrant and oh-so-French! Julia Child would have loved them. They celebrate the joy of cooking and a love of life. These culinary treasures will have you cheering “Bon Appetit.” We’re talking about vintage posters that delight the eye, arouse the senses and give an ordinary kitchen or living space that incomparable Parisian charm.

At the upcoming San Francisco Fine Jewelry & Antiques Show, one of the country’s leading poster experts, Elizabeth Norris of Vintage Posters, will have you stopping in your tracks with her visually striking vintage posters that celebrate European flair. Here are the great wines, the fine cuisine, the popular European brands that recall good times shared with good friends over a candlelit dining table.

Ms. Norris’ collection, the result of over a decade of travel, includes hundreds of original posters from 1880 to 1980 that touch on many topics – memorable exhibitions, fashion, sports, transportation and travel. “We believe that there are great posters from every time period and country – the Belle Epoque, the Art Deco Period, military posters from both of the World Wars, the Post War Era, as well as the modern and contemporary periods,” states Ms. Norris.

However, it is the lively food, agricultural and beverage posters that are now in the spotlight, spurred by the popularity of such movies as Julie and Julia which has budding “Julias” throughout the country searching avidly for the colorful French, Italian, and Californian advertising posters to grace their own kitchens and dining nooks. Picture yourself stirring up a chocolate soufflé against a backdrop of a striking red and black poster depicting a delightful young French woman in 1800s dress, doing the same. Or, sip a glass of bubbly while your own be-wigged sommelier in yellow tails toasts the evening. These vintage posters add joy to any occasion and any room.

It was French historian, Max Gallo, who noted that posters have been in existence for over two hundred years. However, the modern poster, as we know it, didn’t come into being until 1870 when the printing industry perfected the color lithography process and made mass production possible. Poster art flourished in the late 1800s when such celebrated artists as Toulouse-Lautrec and Jules Cheret, called the father of the advertising placard, turned to the medium.

Posters were originally used to announce specific events, but later were printed for advertising purposes. Because they were printed on inexpensive paper, they were not expected to last for more than a few weeks. Vintage posters are linen-backed to provide support for the paper. Most posters were printed with stone lithography – a painstaking process in which an image is etched by hand into limestone with a grease crayon and acid. Once the printing of a poster was finished, the stone was scraped down and used to make a different poster. Unintentionally, the printers created something limited, which is why posters are valuable.

Just as Julia Child enjoyed French cooking as an integral part of her Parisian experience, so too can you enjoy one of these big, bright, vintage Parisian posters that bring a touch of French life into the home.

The San Francisco Fine Jewelry & Antiques Show is part of “Connoisseur’s Weekend in San Francisco,” to be held March 19-21, which presents three separate collecting events, simultaneously in one location – the Concourse at the San Francisco Design Center. Also enjoy the second edition of Art International San Francisco and the premier of Wine Expo San Francisco.

Hours for the event are Friday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $15 for all three events. For more information on exhibiting, contact O.S.A.T. at 310-287-1896, or visit

Photos courtesy Art International Fairs


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