The Marketplace of Culture
Illustrations for theatre programmes, songs, and newspapers. Posters advertising dance halls, café-concerts and other commercial products. Many of Lautrec’s graphic works fall under the heading of mass or popular culture. One of the most eye-catching of these genres is the poster.
Expansion of the quantity of images produced by mass media
Late 19th century Paris experienced a massive expansion of the commercial market and of the range and quantity of images produced by mass media. Thousands of square metres of wall were set aside for advertising, and posters became a prominent feature of the urban space.
Printing techniques were developed at a rapid pace. In the 1890s the colour poster entered the market; it was regarded as one of the most modern vehicles of expression of the time.
Groundbreaking poster designs
Lautrec’s poster designs were groundbreaking. He stylised and simplified forms and figures, emphasising planes and lines. These formal devices give the posters their strong impact and make them easy for passersby to decode.
In all of Lautrec’s artistic practice, his production of posters was most closely linked to the commercial market. But he also created illustrations for newspapers, books, literary journals, song covers, theatre programmes, and invitations and restaurant menus.