PUBLICITY, AN ART “OF OUR TIMES”

The publication de PAN. Annuaire du luxe à Paris in 1928 and the exclusive collaboration of the best poster designers of the day made Devambez into a major figure in the emerging art of publicity.

Devambez’s pioneering intuitions began long before this, however. In 1899, it was Devambez who printed the poster for Cendrillon (Cinderella), a fairytale in four acts and six tableaux after Charles Perrault (poem by Henri Cain, score by Jules Massenet) presented for the first time at the Théâtre national de l’Opéra Comique on 24 May 1899, in the presence of the President of the Republic.

This enchanting show was an immediate success, partly thanks to its fascinating and utterly modern use of electricity. “An agent of wonder” at the service of theatrical fantasy, the so-called Fée Électricité (“electrical fairy”) was not only the protagonist of the piece, but also the central theme of the poster, expressing an enthusiasm for modernity for which Devambez was one of the principal ambassadors.

In the first decade of the century, Geo Dorival (whose real name was Justin Marie Georges Dorival) designed his first posters for Devambez, and Au Bon Marché commissioned its first publicity campaigns from the publisher, earning itself the title of “leading French department store”.

Devambez’s reputation also ensured regular contributions from Drian (the pseudonym of Adrien Désiré Étienne), a well known illustrator for several fashion magazines including La Gazette du Bon Ton, Femina, and Plaire. In 1912 Drian designed the cover for Marchandes de Chichis by Sylviac, and produced a series of sixteen original etchings for a luxurious edition of Monsieur de Bougrelon by Jean Lorrain, published by the Éditions d’art Devambez under the editorship of Édouard Chimot in 1927.

In 1922, Devambez commissioned Jean-Gabriel Domergue to design the poster for the Grand Bal du Corset organised for the New Year celebrations on 31 December 1922 at the Hôtel Continental. A cousin of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and a painter who specialised in portraits of Parisiennes, Domergue’s poster perfectly expressed the exclusive atmosphere of this gala evening, where Paris society gathered in the hotel’s “brilliantly illuminated” salons to listen to jazz music and attend a fashion show presenting the latest Parisian haute couture creations.

Selection of posters printed by Devambez, [1890-1922]

Au Bon Marché greetings cards, series entitled “Les jeux d’enfants” (children’s games) and “Les métiers d’antan” (professions of yesteryear), Paris, Devambez, [after 1906]

Sylviac (Marie-Thérèse Chauvin), Marchandes de chichis, Paris, Devambez, 1912

Jean Lorrain, Monsieur de Bougrelon, Paris, Éditions d’art Devambez, 1927

Paul Poiret, PAN. Annuaire du luxe à Paris, 1928, Paris, Devambez, 1928