Playing Tambourine
by Jules Cheret

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Artist biography

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Jules Cheret

Chéret created a genre, a new method of expression for poster art, and was the founder of a technique destined to set a trend. At the age of 13, he did an apprenticeship with a lithographer who employed him to design letters. But Chéret had other ambitions. He taught himself drawing, with only his very confident sense of taste and the very lively originality of his artistic temperament to guide him. At that time, he produced numerous lithographic vignettes for brochures or book covers. In 1856, Chéret went to England, where he studied new colour lithography techniques. He stayed in England for ten years, then returned to Paris and in 1866 established his printing works and launched his first two colour posters: Wooden Doe for the Porte St-Martin and Valentino’s Ball. They were enormously successful, but owing far more to the enthusiasm of the draughtsman than to the skill of the lithographer. He won a gold medal at the 1900 Exposition Universelle. Chéret was blind when he died and was a Grand Officer of the Légion d’Honneur. From 1858, his three-colour poster for Orpheus in the Underworld by the French composer of burlesque opera Jacques Offenbach was his first successful piece of work. From amongst the very large number of posters which were to punctuate his successful career, of special interest are Le Bal du Moulin Rouge, 1889; Loie Fuller at the Folies Bergère, 1893; Le Palais de Glace, 1894; El Dorado, 1894; Théâtre de la Bodinière, 1900. Primarily influenced by Post-Impressionist Toulouse-Lautrec, but presenting his female dancers in frilly dresses, conveying more of a sense of elegant mischief than any human depth, after 1900 he returned to a technique closer to Impressionism. Chéret’s enthusiasm was admirable; he drew effortlessly, with an extraordinarily keen eye. His line is elegant and his colours are extremely harmonious and skilfully graduated. Chéret was a conscientious artist: although he sold his printing works to the Maison Chaix in 1881, and from this date only stayed on as its artistic director, he brought the same attention to detail to his work as he did at the beginning of his career. He was not content to produce the sketch on paper or canvas, he still very frequently drew on stone. In his posters, Chéret was the painter of feminine grace, of simple coquetry, as he was the dynamic, cheerful interpreter of clowns, acrobats and female dancers. Jules Chéret was also a very remarkable landscape artist but is little known in this capacity.


Group Exhibitions


2001, Women in Provence and the Mediterranean (La Femme en Provence et en Méditerranée), Fondation Regards de Provence, Château de Borély, Marseilles

2007, The Birth of the Modern Poster, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Solo Exhibitions


1986, Jules Chéret: Collection du Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nice, Palais Acropolis, Nice

1991, Grande Galerie Odakyu, Tokyo (retrospective exhibition touring Japan)

2002, Jules Chéret: Art of the Circus and Fairground (Jules Chéret: le Cirque et l’Art Forain), Musée Provincial Félicien Rops, Namur

2003, Homage to Dry Pastel: the Pastels of Jules Chéret (Hommage au Pastel Sec: les Pastels de Jules Chéret), Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nice (retrospective)

2009, Musée des Art Décoratifs, Paris

Museum and Gallery Holdings


Boston (MFA): A Lady with Black Gloves Powdering her Face (coloured crayon and india ink over graphite)

Los Angeles (County MA): several posters

Nice (MBA Jules-Chéret): major collection of posters, pastels and paintings

Paris (Mus. d’Orsay): Women in Black with a Muff (1885, oil on canvas); Evening Celebrations (pastel); Madness and Happiness (pastel); Pierrot and Colombine (oil on canvas); Woman’s Head (oil on canvas)

St Petersburg (Hermitage): Masquerade (pastel on canvas)

Jules Cheret