As is well-documented, Fernand Mourlot is credited in art history with the resurgence of the lithograph. During the twentieth century, artists such as Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Raoul Dufy, Fernand Léger, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró, and Pablo Picasso, just to name a few, began to explore the art form of lithography. Their interest came through the encouragement of the Atelier Mourlot, a Parisian printshop founded in 1852 by the Mourlot family on rue Saint-Mar in East Paris.
Originally a producer of fine wallpaper, the Atelier Mourlot became involved in the printing of illustrated portolios as well as high quality posters for the French National Museums and major foreign institutions. By 1937, Mourlot had established its reputation as the largest printer of artistic posters.
The Atelier was transformed when Fernand Mourlot (1895-1988), a graduate of the famous École Nationale des Arts Decoratifs, invited a number of twentieth century artists to learn the complexities of fine-art printing. Here they worked directly on smooth lithographic stone tablets to create original artworks, which would then be executed under the direction of master printers.
The combined genius of modern artist and master printer gave rise to unique and visually striking lithographs that appeared only as special limited editions. Reflecting energy and luminescence, the lithographs not only invoke the diligent technique and conscientiousness employed by the artists, but also the significance of the lithograph as a free-standing artistic form.
"Posters must have always existed," wrote Fernand Mourlot in his book "Twentieth Century Posters." "(They existed) in antiquity, in the form of inscriptions; laws engraved in Greek; painted announcements of theatrical performances in Rome; wood cuts in the Middle Ages; printed recruiting notices in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Indeed, posters are to be found through history. They were rarely illustrated, however, before the invention of lithography, then color lithography made it possible to give practical expression in color to the illustrated poster."
The complex lithograph process involves first drawing on a limestone or copper tablet in greasy crayon, adding a chemical called gum Arabic to preserve the forms, then adding the ink to print the colors using multiple pressings.
In his book, Fernand Mourlot creates a documented history of the artists and the process he nurtured and witnessed. "Leger was a regular visitor to our printing establishment where he made a great number of lithographs in the form of prints and illustrations," Fernand Mourlot recalled. "Beginning in October 1946, Picasso came to work at the Rue de Chabrol during a period of several months. During this period, he exhausted the possibilities of the process; he both learned and re-invented lithography." Picasso created, between 1945 and 1969, nearly four hundred lithographs at the Mourlot studio.
For the studio's one-hundred-year anniversary, Fernand Mourlot published a collection of original lithographs by Picasso, Léger, Matisse, Marino Marini, André Derain, and Miró, among others. The results of Fernand Mourlot's collaboration with these artists were so successful that more and more galleries chose Mourlot to print posters for their exhibits, known as Affiches de Peintres Lithographiées. By the mid-twentieth century, the reputation of Mourlot Frères was so respected that the words "Imprimée par Mourlot" were enough to guarantee the finest quality lithographs and demand a premium collector or auction value, worldwide.
"Conceived, brought forth, watched over and supervised by the artist himself, in an atmosphere of creative excitement, all these posters are original, living works," wrote Fernand Mourlot.
All of the gorgeous vintage lithographs in the Mourlot Posters archive were printed under the close supervision and control of the artist, a detail that adds to their allure.
You can find them all, here: The 1959 Mourlot Lithograph Poster Collection.
Period Paper has obtained an extraordinary, ultra-rare collection of original lithographs by some of the premier graphic artists of the 1950's (Many from the New York City Area). These lithographs were produced for an annual art event in the 1950's for local businesses and major corporations largely based in New York. Historically important for corporate archivists, these are extremely difficult to locate and are virtually unseen individually. The original lithographs were produced in only one edition, and included just 2,000. These lithographs are perhaps the most unique, rare, important advertising collectibles that exist for businesses and corporations.
The association that held the event, the Artist’s Equity, was founded in 1947 after seeing the need for an organization to protect American artists economically and to find a place for them in postwar America. The relief programs of the Great Depression had disappeared after World War II, but there was a sense from artists that after the war, the general public would have more appreciation and support for art since it had covered so many public buildings in murals as part of the Federal Art Project.
Unfortunately, this was not the case, and after a series of exhibitions titled “Advancing American Art”—featuring prominent artists like Georgia O’Keefe, Reginald Marsh, and Yasuo Kuniyoshi—were canceled during their tour of Europe, the art climate worsened. Newspapers projected artists as undemocratic leftist radicals that devalued traditional artistic styles. President Truman had a conservative approach to art, hated abstraction, and feared a contamination of American values, and so there was a need for American artists to band together and form a foundation to create job opportunities for themselves.
Kuniyoshi fostered the new organization, and brought together over 160 well-known artists of various schools, including Ben Shahn, William Gropper, George Biddle, Jacob Lawrence, and Max Weber. The mission of Artist’s Equity was to encourage legislation to help the fine arts, deal with problems of copyright and royalties in the new medium of television, and to establish a welfare fund for artists. To become a part of the organization, artists would have to prove that either they had a one-person show at a respected locale, or that they had been included in a major exhibition.
The first public meeting of the Artist’s Equity was held at the Museum of Modern Art on April 30, 1947. Kuniyoshi discussed the issues facing the artists and explored a 15-point program as outlined by Harry Sternberg, the program’s chairman. Art Digest noted “If a bomb had dropped on the Museum of Modern Art the evening of April 30, it would probably have set American art back a quarter century.”
The organization lasted until 1965 when tensions rose between the New York chapter and the national association, and the New York chapter split. It continues today with minor name changes, and another still thrives in Washington D. C. Today, they work on the well-being of their art members, the health hazards of artist’s materials, and contracts with dealers.
Find the entire collection here.
Over the last 11 years, I have on multiple occasions been fortunate to locate, acquire, and view the original Picasso linocuts as they were so stunningly produced in 1962. Between 1958 and 1961 Picasso made many linocuts, a process that he found hugely stimulating. Picasso invented the ‘reduction’ method, progressively cutting the same linoblock for each new colour, making it impossible to take any further prints from the original plates. In 1962, in collaboration with Picasso and Galerie Louise Leiris, new linoleum plates were made at 42% of the original size, and it was from these that the prints I'm speaking of, that we recently acquired, were produced.
It has been suggested that Picasso began drawing bullfighters and bullfights as early as his pre-teen years. Back in 2008 when we acquired a special collection of lithographs produced from Picasso's most famous painting, Guernica, you could see similar illustration styles work their way into other themes of his work. At that time, rather than depict the horrors of war in detail, he mythologized them in his painting, often by referring significantly to the elements of the bullfight. In his later years, he was often the guest of honor at the weekly bullfight in Vallauris.
But it was not until he delved into the linocut medium that he developed the highly stylized form that characterizes the bullfight series of 1959. In so doing, Picasso took the ritualized combat between man and beast that is the bullfight a step further and immortalized it in this series of linocuts as the "dance of death". The series is comprised of several wonderful artworks in black and shades of brown, but this one is the most beautiful because of its striking coloration. For its creation, Picasso took the linoleum plate which he had printed in three colors (black, brown and caramel), possibly earlier that same summer's day, and pulled it again, this time using these brilliant red and yellow.
The following paragraphs come from the introduction by Wilhelm Boeck to the production and gathering of this collection (which includes the one 1958 linocut, and all of those from 1959, as produced in 1962). And, if you are interested in collecting fine works from Picasso, these are some of the most richly produced, color-accurate productions in existence of his linocuts. Again, the following paragraphs are from Boeck, mostly written in the present tense:
"The resurgence of bullfighting in Arles and Nîmes, after the war, brought back to Picasso's mind early yet astonishingly accurate memories, and these became the main theme of the linoleum cuts produced in the fall of 1959. For many years Picasso had not seen bullfights in Spain, since he scrupulously adheres to his vow not to visit that country [as long as the fascists remain in power]. The subject matter of thecorrida began again to exert its influence on the artist in the late 1940s, when he made lithographs and painted ceramics reflecting this theme. In 1954, after the town of Vallauris, France, permitted bullfights under a revised set of rules that do not allow the actual killing of the animal, the dramatic events in the arena acquired greater importance in his work. Jacqueline Roque, who entered his life at this time and became his favorite model and friend (she became Madame Picasso in 1961), was as passionate as he about bullfights; the subject became a creative obsession with Picasso. His devotion to bullfighting was further deepened in 1957 when he was commissioned to illustrate the classic work on the subject, the Tauromaquia by Pepe Illo. The world of the plaza de toros, to which the artist had gained access in his youth in exchange for drawings, was to assert itself for many years. The India ink drawings of bullfight scenes done in 1959 and 1960 bring us to the linoleum cuts, particularly since brown appears as a second color in some of the drawings, foreshadowing its later importance.
In his later years, Picasso's thoughts have dwelt more and more on his native country. His intense fondness for Spain was not reflected solely in his growing predilection for bullfights and in his occasional, somewhat playful assumption of disguises in Spanish costume; it was also a guiding force in his purchase of the Vauvenargues castle in September 1958. The austerity of the castle's historic architecture and the solitude of its wooded surroundings contributed indeed to the reawakening of youthful memories and the strengthening of the Spanish flavor of the works Picasso produced there. This character is apparent in their typical color schemes and strong contrasts....
A group of bullfight scenes...leads to renewed attempts to give aesthetic vitality to plain, unmodeled surfaces. The scene depicted is always the same: a mounted picador attacking the bull with his lance.... The formal contrasts between the figures and the background against which they stand, should be compared with the following red and yellow bullfight scene, Plate 5. The power of the latter print is generated by the balanced interplay of figures and background, in a positive-negative way. Neither figures nor background have spatial dominance; they carry their own complementary, abstract value. The highly imaginative distortions of bull, horse, and picador, permitting a clear vision of the fighting man with the cape, have been subjected to a balanced surface movement of opposing colors."
— Wilhelm Boeck
I consider us fortunate to have acquired two of these collections after a nearly seven-year absence from our collections since selling out back in 2008. Most recently these linocuts were also made available by the Goldmark Gallery in the UK where a traveling exhibition of these works took place in late 2014 where visitor's could acquire the works with the lowest priced images starting at £350 each.
Available for pre-order from December 11th to December 17th here. All orders will ship on December 18th, 2015.
Troy Ylitalo, CEO & President, Period Paper
Lucky Strikes, named so after the Gold Rush, began as a brand for chewing tobacco and evolved from there into one of the top selling cigarette brands of the 1930s— partially due to their focus on a female audience. It is estimated that only 4 out of every 1,000 diggers would ever actually strike gold, and so Lucky Strike used this vision to set themselves apart in a saturated cigarette market—the cigarette name evoked a sense of rarity— that the men who smoked the brand would become enviable and wealthy.
Many cigarette companies had tried to appeal to a female audience in the 1910s and ‘20s, though the response was lackluster. Women were hesitant to smoke—it was socially unacceptable at the time, deemed only a man’s hobby, and so tobacco companies carefully tried to persuade the general public’s view to include women. In these early advertisements, women were shown holding open cigarette boxes (never smoking them), or, in the case of a 1925 Chesterfield ad, were seen watching a man smoke with the slogan “Blow Some My Way.” One Camel advertisement from 1928 shows a woman surrounded by two men, she is not holding a cigarette (the two men are), but the slogan reads, “Personally, I Smoke for Pleasure,” implying that she is the one who is speaking.
Advertisements were gentle about the topic, but in 1929, Lucky Strike schemed to create an advertising campaign that would link female smokers with the Emancipation Movement, and they were very forthcoming about it.
The American Tobacco Company hired Edward Bernays, a successful marketer, to take on the challenge. Bernays hired ten models, and for the 1929 New York Easter Parade, dressed each of them up as a Statue of Liberty, and held cigarettes up in their hands as torches. The parade was heavily promoted in the nation’s newspapers, and seen by millions. The U.S. Tobacco Journal states that 5% of all smokers were women in 1924, 13% in 1928, and 40% by 1950.
Lucky Strike went on to create what is considered one of the most famous slogans in all of advertising history— “Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet,” reminding women of the slimming benefits of tobacco smoking, and why a cigarette should be chosen first over a piece of candy. This advertising technique would be widely used when marketing cigarettes toward women until the end of the 20th century.
The decade following World War II was the biggest for the tobacco industry. Americans smoked more than they ever had before and ever have since. Cigarettes were included in soldier kits overseas, and back home people were supporting their troops and more than happy to support the purveyors of their cigarettes. In the case of Lucky Strike, a successful advertising campaign ran that swapped out the normally green label for a white one. The brand stated that the green label had “gone to war,” because the copper used to make the green label was needed for WWII—this, in reality, was actually just a tactic to appeal to a broader female audience—market studies had shown that the green wasn’t as attractive to females as the white. The ingredient used to make the green dye was actually chromium, and not copper, but Lucky Strike doctored this up a bit by presumably aiding in the war effort. Their famous slogan at the time was “L. S. M. F. T.” or “Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco.” The initials were used as a way to mimic Morse Code.
We carry cigarette advertisements up until the early 1970s, when health authorities worldwide warned of the side effects of smoking. It is interesting following our group of Tobacciana ads in chronological order, watching how women move from the background and into the foreground.
Collection Image Back Story - This image comes from an original 1938 illustrated ad showing Joan Crawford delivery Lucky Strike as a holiday gift. You can find the original ad here.
Image reference: The billboard image shown at the top of this post was captured high resolution from a 1925 original lithograph obtained by Period Paper depicting early Lucky Strike billboard advertising.
Bull Durham cigarettes of North Carolina were the first nationally recognized tobacco company, but Camel took the lead in popularity in 1913 with a viral advertising campaign, considered the gateway of modern advertising.
First, the R. J. Reynolds company needed to come up with a brand that would set itself apart in the saturated tobacco market. Most of the brands of the time used a Turkish tobacco blend. Advertisements of the era generally included Oriental and exotic imagery to exude something fascinating, rare, and extraordinary, hence, the logo of Camel cigarettes.
The first drawing of the camel was very cartoonish, but when the Barnum and Bailey Circus came to town in Winston, North Carolina, where the R. J. Reynolds company was stationed, a photographer went and took a photo of a one-humped camel named Old Joe. The smug looking creature was perfect for the label of the cigarette packaging.
The R. J. Reynolds company ran an advertisement campaign with their agency N. W. Ayer, with Old Joe camel and the slogan, “The Camels are Coming!” (An interesting allusion to the Book of Genesis, though we are unsure if this was a strategic one or just a coincidence). There was no mention of tobacco, nor cigarettes, nor any product whatsoever in the printed ads. Then, on the fourth day of the campaign, it was announced that Camels were a new brand of cigarette. There was a huge outpouring of support and interest from the public, and by 1915, Camel became the top-selling cigarette brand in the United States.
Reference: Both billboard images shown here were captured high resolution from 1925 original lithographs obtained by Period Paper depicting early Camel billboard advertising.
When looking at historical bicycle advertisements, not only are we seeing the development of the modern-day bike from velocipede to the safety, but we are also seeing the progression of feminism, as women recognize their freedom and find the bicycle to embody their independence. Although a seemingly strange medium, this transformation of the modern-day woman is discernible through the history of bicycle advertisements.
The oldest form of bicycle was the velocipede, or draisine, a contraption invented in 1817 by Baron Karl von Drais. It was made almost completely out of wood, weighed 48 pounds, and was foot propelled. Although rare, we sometimes carry velocipede advertisements, but, due to their scarcity, they are often snatched up almost immediately. By the 1860s, pedals had been attached to the front wheel of the velocipede, and was, in the vernacular, known as “the boneshaker” -- an obvious implication to the user’s experience on the rigid framed bicycles on the cobblestone streets of the day.
Next came the high-wheel bicycles, or the penny-farthings, of the 1870s. They featured a tall front wheel, the “penny”, and a small rear wheel, the “farthing”. These high speed bicycles were extremely dangerous. Often, riders would break both wrists while trying to break their fall (their legs often got trapped beneath the handlebars), so riding was reserved for bold young men and the well-to-do as an example of social status.
Then, in the 1880s and 1890s came the Safety Bicycle, invented by John Kemp Starley. The Safety Bicycle changed everything. As the name suggests, the bicycle was much more reliable and secure, and became a mode of transportation for not only the wealthy, but for the common people. And so begun the bicycle craze. In 1897 alone, over 2 million bikes were sold in the United States. Women began to challenge Victorian ideals, and since the restrictive dress of the corset and hoop skirt was inhibiting on a bicycle, the New Woman opted for more freeing and loose clothing. This New Woman can often be seen in the advertisements of the day, and represent the changing norms of society.
Susan B. Anthony said on the subject, “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”
Hello friends, customers, long-time supporters, and new visitors. Welcome to Period Paper's new website.
The launch of a new home for Period Paper has been a long journey, to say the least. In many ways, it has been nearly a decade in the making. We have attempted to navigate this territory before, on different platforms, using different technologies, and with lackluster results. Each time, I've shut it down and instead, maintained our full presence on eBay and Amazon.
My goal in building a web home for Period Paper has always been two-fold. Of primary importance, is to build an environment that supports our customers at the highest levels. With over 125,000 customers worldwide, we feel obligated to constantly improve our buyers experience. The inability to control our navigation, the search results, the information layout, etc., on these platforms has been just one of the nagging challenges that I have wanted to improve.
The secondary reason for building our own platform is so that we can control our costs, expenses, and overhead related to an online presence, so that we are sustainable. It might seem to our long-time customers that after a decade of leading this market, we would be profitable, and sustainable. However, the constantly changing environment, especially with eBay, has put our business in jeopardy many times over the last five years. Most recently, this summer we were forced to do almost absurd clearance sales, dramatically below our costs, just to create the cash flow to cover expenses.
Let's talk about eBay. In truth, I love eBay. I built our business on eBay. Our company won eBay Store of the Year two years in a row in the early days of our business when they held worldwide contests for eBay Stores. I was a speaker at their national conventions 3 years in a row and helped other sellers repeatedly build sites within eBay that would support their brands and customers well, and successfully. I was a part of a team that travelled to eBay corporate and worked with them in 2008-2009 when they were rolling out major changes to improve the buyer experience on eBay and also increase the standards that sellers needed to be accountable to. To date, we've served over 100,000 customers on eBay alone, and those customers will always receive an unsurpassed eBay buyer experience thanks to our commitment to caring for every customer.
However, eBay has had a major failing over the years. That failure is to truly align themselves, and their revenue model, with the success of the seller (like Amazon). Instead of charging us a fee for every item we sell, a fee that is representative of what they offer us as a seller, a major part of our monthly fees is to just launch our products into their marketplace. They make the majority of their money from us, whether we are successful or not at selling our items. eBay knows this is flawed, and in the spring of 2013, announced a new fee structure. For those who had an anchor store on eBay, they would no longer pay insertion fees, up to 2,500 listings a month. Free insertion fees, for all listings for all sellers with an inventory smaller than 2,500 items. And, at the same time, they dramatically raised the listing fees for all listings above 2,500 listings per month.
This was the pinnacle of frustration for me with a marketplace that I have loved for years. It was likely a massive percentage of sellers with stores that would no longer have to pay fees up front. Congratulations eBay, you got it right. But for us, with 130,000 listings, it was absurd. A company supporting eBay buyers at the highest level (at that time for nearly a decade), with an incredible feedback record, nearly perfect detailed seller ratings, and supporting a diverse customer base for eBay in over 40 countries, would actually see a dramatic fee increase, and NOT benefit from the obvious acknowledgment by eBay that they should not charge fees up front, but rather align themselves with final value fees assessed when a seller has successfully sold an item (like Amazon).
Since that time, page views, and sku performance has continued to drop for us, but fees have not due to this outdated and unfair fee structure on eBay. We've lost meaningful tools they used to provide to Anchor stores. And they've made changes to eBay Stores Search structure that failed our customers and hurt our sales, dramatically. During this same period, we have seen continued improvements in multiple areas on Amazon. Amazon continues to work to build out their Entertainment and Collectibles category. Their team leaders and marketing professionals have reached out to us and want to actively see us succeed in their market. While our fees also increased from 15% to 20% to move into the Collectibles category, it's assessed when we've had a successful sale, with virtually no up-front costs. And, since that time, they continue to do more to help us succeed. During this same period, eBay has dropped us from having a dedicated account manager to help us grow our business as they keep raising their revenue qualifications for having an account manager.
I still believe in eBay. But they haven't done their share as our partner in business. And, they continue to force us to make business structure changes and soon, those changes will dramatically impact the revenue they see from our business. In addition, the 25,000 customers on our newsletter subscriber list have always been sent to eBay to find and acquire our items. All links in our newsletters have always sent our customers to eBay. Soon that will change as I will have to send them to Amazon, and here, to our new home, because we will reduce our listings on eBay to perhaps 15-20% of our current catalog, to reduce the up front costs. We will maintain the full catalog on Amazon and obviously, here. If eBay fixes this, then we will continue to maintain our presence on eBay that we have fostered for over a decade.
Finally, an apology. But before that, let me just say, I am part of an amazing team of people that make up the Period Paper family. This 'family' has been through a great deal over the last decade in building this dream to support our audiences at the highest levels in this market, and serve an audience that is grateful for what we deliver, while being sustainable ourselves. Constant change, innovation, expansion to nearly 8,000 sq ft and two dozen employees at one point, comes with a level of effort, focus, drive, patience, forgiveness, and care that few are prepared to endure. It's a small core group of dedicated individuals that make up our 'family' and Period Paper would be nowhere without them. I want to be clear that my apology is in no way a reflection of their efforts to serve our customers at the very highest levels. Each have worked tirelessly to serve our customers, regardless of our trials, hurdles, and failures internally.
With that said, I must apologize to our customers. I'm sorry. Over this decade, and particularly in the last few years, and especially this last summer, you've endured a lot from us. There have been some 'Letters from the President' asking for your assistance and you have come through for us and helped us overcome a poor revenue performing summer that almost closed our doors. Dramatic improvement of Amazon sales, along with your support via purchases this summer, got us through those months and the launch of this site is another major step towards making sure we never revisit a time like that again.
During this summer, we have been forced to constantly send emails with increasing discounts, special offers, promotions, etc., without offering you much in the way of new releases, interesting acquisitions, or rarities. I don't like sending those emails. And, I'm sure you got tired of seeing them. I'm sorry. In addition, once we moved past the summer, and we were able to start acquiring new collections to release October 1st and nearly daily since, I've sent you an email newsletter promoting those new collections as they become available. Usually 4-5 emails per week, and they still continue as we need to cover our accrued expenses from this summer, and we are maintaining that frequency of newly released collections. I promise once we get past December 21st, 2015 we will go back to ONE email per week to announce new releases. And, the email will be thoughtful, organized, and timely and you will easily be able to find our new items, with advance notice before others can discover them in the marketplaces.
So, a special thank you to our customers who came through for us this summer. We love serving you, and take great pleasure and pride in doing so. And I'm very confident that the new home for Period Paper, as well as our growth on Amazon, will lead us to serve you for years to come.
In my next blog post, I will share with you the specific improvements we are focusing on to improve your buyer experience here on our website, versus other marketplaces. Some are technologically novel, others based on feedback from you over the years, and some are to deliver unique products that you have been asking us for, literally, for years.
For now, on this day, I'm simply grateful. Grateful for my friends and family that have endured my absence and unavailability during this build. Grateful for the family at Period Paper that makes all this possible. Grateful for the audience across the world that I am honored to continue to serve. Grateful, indeed.
Troy Ylitalo, CEO & President, Period Paper