Art is present in every flicker of life that passes not only our optical senses, but each of our sensory perceptions. The great attributes of art are form – color, value, space and line with balance contrast and proportion applied with physical materials like brushes and paints – and content – what the artist portrays and how the audience reacts to both the intended and actual messages.
Cinema poster art accompanied the first films, most likely released in Paris with the onset of the cinematography of Auguste and Louis Lumiere. Take for example, La Fille Sauvage, a famous French movie serial released in July of 1922. Twelve movies were released over a period of a year (one film per month), providing the roots of the world’s first soap operas. Along with this new art form, the times for artists were changing as well. The wars from 1914-18 radically changed everyone’s way of thinking about the world. Revolutionary changes are reflected in the styles of Poster Art in this extraordinary series, from the fading style of Art Nouveau to the explosion of German Expressionism, Modernism and dynamic Art Deco styles.
During the outset of the 20th Century, creative European illustrators designed movie posters that could be considered just as exciting as the actual movie itself and used a process different from the famous painters of the time: lithography, first invented in 1796. Lithography is a method of printing originally based on the principle that oil and water do not mix. An image was drawn with oil, fat or wax onto a smooth, flat limestone plate. This stone plate was treated with a mixture of acid and gum arabic, etching portions of the stone, which were not protected by the grease-based image. As this process improved, lithographic presses took over the tedious work and allowed multiple color applications and duplication.
The La Fille Sauvage series brilliantly represents changing art trends of its time and is made from the evolving lithographic process. It is also the only known complete collection of thirteen posters in existence: twelve (63”x47”) represent the months of the year and one larger one illustrate the cast and crew. The caretaker of this series is Retro-Reproductions (www.Retro-Reproductions.com). The company was started by two entrepreneurial women, one American and one French. They first met in Paris and fast became friends with the same, energetic spirit and appreciation for fine art. Their journey is an amazing story.
Born in France, Sylvie Bruges started a career of taking photos for centerfolds in Paris, then assisting celebrity photographer, Polish-born Tana Kaleya. Working with models, actors and film directors, Sylvie met Sudy Dostal, an American who had attended film school in Paris, and was then on an assignment in London, writing her first theatrical feature film screenplay. Sudy invited Sylvie to visit her in Los Angeles. The rest, as they say, is history.
Ultimately, Sudy proposed a new business venture that involved art. As a film student in Paris, Sudy lived on rue de Babylone, where there was a shop selling movie posters. Sudy had a B.A. in Art from Scripps College but knew nothing about poster art. She was astonished by the beauty, variety and story-telling of this new world. She started collecting originals she found in the local flea market. After meeting Sylvie, she proposed the idea of buying and selling original movie posters. Living in California, Sylvie and Sudy traveled back and forth to Paris, collecting posters and learning more and more about them. The two would bring home multiple movie posters at a time, selling some and saving some. These beautiful posters became more and more coveted and more and more difficult to find. Suddenly, these original movie posters were worth a lot of money. When they realized all good things must end, they wondered if they could reproduce the posters that were coming and going from their original business.
Sylvie and Sudy then learned how to clear and register copyrights, make transparencies and digital files, then prints of museum quality reproductions. Retro-Reproductions was born (dba Vintage Art Reprints). Their first sales were through friends, then word of mouth. Eventually they learned how the art world works through conventions that take place across the country and how work sells through galleries, art shows, the internet, etc. They learned how to crate and send their images to shows from New York, to Chicago to Atlanta to San Francisco, all from their base in Los Angeles. They set up booths around the country and made their first contacts for licensing and selling their works of art. Having sold thousands of reproductions initially in catalogs then through internet sales, Sudy and Sylvie were among the first to build a business based on the art of the poster. They have since licensed collections that include black and white, vintage photographs.
Since their business has changed dramatically, they are now offering some extraordinary posters from their original collection. These, as well as reprints, can be seen and purchased through the Retro-Reproductions website.
Looking into future sales, Sylvie and Sudy met a new friend, Mike Will Downey, whose entertainment business, FiveHype, works in various skills including film, marketing, sales and web development. Seeing how it is always better to share “good food,” there is a new alliance developing between the two companies. Mike even provided the background music to Retro-Reproductions’ new song. Let us all sing together and spread beautiful art throughout the world.
More information and images can be found on the Sylvie Bruges Pinterest, and the Retro-Reproductions Facebook. Contact Sara Dillon of Five Hype with any further questions, comments, or purchasing information.