Today I want to introduce you to a Parisian resource you will want to hang onto- Rue Marcellin, the real deal for collecting vintage poster art, guaranteed authentic, to their loyal international client base. There is nothing like these works for a large lively burst of color into a design scheme. I am not referring to the kind that can be found at various catalog/retail giants, I speak of the real thing, the good stuff. It is important to buy this kind of art through a reputable dealer, like Rue Marcellin. You want your purchase to hold its value, and you should know the story behind the piece (or artist) you are buying, because this art is as rich in glorious history as it is incredible pigment. You definitely want to buy it right. So you are armed with the necessary knowledge to invest wisely when you buy these pieces, I want to introduce you to the expert, Paul, at Paris based Rue Marcellin. His inventory is so incredible that I have it peppered through the educational Q&A to tempt you. In case you fall in love with any of these specific pieces and want to enrich your interiors with a pop of Art Deco or Art Nouveau, I promise to give you his contact information at the end…
Q1: Please give us pointers on what one should know when buying the original works and how to know the difference between original and reproduction-
In general it’s not that easy to tell especially for a beginner. It can be confusing because similar posters were often printed in several versions, sizes, and on different types of paper. Some popular posters were reprinted at a later date and are not the original printing. That’s why it is important to buy from an experienced and reputable dealer that has the experience to tell and will stand behind what they sell. We work with some great French and other European partners that have been dealing with posters for many years. Because we are an online gallery we have taken extra steps to make sure that buyers can purchase our products with peace of mind. We guarantee that our posters are authentic and provide a certificate of authenticity with every piece. We offer hassle-free returns, no questions asked. And we offer free international shipping to maximize the convenience for the buyer. The largest distinguishing feature of an original vintage poster is the printing method. Printing technologies have changed over the last 150 years. Our current focus is on posters, prints, and illustrations from the late 1800s to the 1940s and a limited number of examples from the 50s and 60s. During the majority of this time, the primary technique that was used to produce print material was stone lithography. The quality of commercial printing during this “Golden Age of Stone Lithography” between 1870 and 1940 has never been duplicated and probably never will. One has to see the colours and textures an old poster possesses to truly understand how unique it is compared to a modern poster printed using today’s offset or digital technologies.
Q2) Let’s talk about the care of this kind of art.
The Dealer’s part of care: Conservation and restoration
Almost all early posters and magazines were printed on cheap short-fiber paper, often containing wood cellulose (imagine modern-day daily newspaper). These were never meant to survive 100+ years! With age this paper discolours and becomes brittle (imagine a newspaper left outside your doorstep for a few days while you are on vacation). The high acidity in the paper continues to essentially “eat” itself. Every one of our posters, prints, magazine illustrations gets worked on by a professional conserver here in France. He gives each piece a “bath” to de-acifiy it (to stop and reverse the above-described process). This also washes the decades of surface dirt bringing the piece’s original colours back to life. All our works are then mounted on a special type of thick acid-free linen paper. This gives the piece structure, it can easily be handled and framed, and minimizes any further deterioration. Finally, if necessary, the conserver restores any damage, the poster may have. This may include fixing tears, etc. Everything he does is based on accepted museum standards and is fully reversible. Proper conservation that is fully reversible is extremely important to maintain the piece’s value. In fact, this process significantly increases the value of the piece. The condition of the poster and if and how it’s been conserved is one of the most important factors to determining the poster’s value.
Buyer’s Need-to-know pointers on care:
We recommend that the poster is professionally framed. A professional framer, that has experience with vintage posters, will ensure that the frame and glass will not directly come in contact with the poster and that all materials that do come in contact with the piece are acid-free. It is important to know that UV damage to posters is irreversible. Conservers can do a lot of magic to fix damaged posters but diminished colours from UV damage cannot be restored. More on UV protection.
Q3) Tell us more about you and your business-
About myself: I am a Polish-born Canadian, who’s lived in Canada most of my life. Two years ago I decided to quit my job as a civil engineer, building bridges and highways in Vancouver, and moved to Lyon, France to study an MBA. Long story short, I fell in love with France (the food, wine, the gorgeous and historically fascinating places, and culture as a whole), decided to settle in Paris and combine my passion for collecting these beautiful posters and my longing to be an entrepreneur and launched Rue Marcellin. Rue Marcellin is currently exclusively an online gallery and e-commerce store, but is currently working to establish relationships with interior design / home decor stores and galleries in France, the UK (London), Canada (Vancouver, BC). We are very enthusiastic about the idea of working directly to the consumer through our online store, to do pop-up galleries in various metropolitan cities on a periodical basis, and to find the right permanent physical stores that will feature our works.
Q4) Who are the greats in the your area of art? Your favorite artists, your favorite pieces in inventory-
There are definitely the greats that are highly sought-after by today’s collectors. This includes famous poster designers, but the demand often fluctuates with the style that is “in” at the moment. For example the work of Jules Cheret, referred to the father of the poster and Alfonse Mucha, the father of Art Nouveau, were extremely popular 5-10 years ago. Although their posters still command hefty sums the new focus is on Art Deco artists like A.M Cassandre for example. Often it’s more about the theme then the artist. For example, skiing posters are achieving record prices at auctions today, as are travel posters focusing on Southern France. Toulouse-Lautrec’s Moulin Rouge poster just sold for £314,000 at a Christie’s poster auction this month (May). Mucha’s and Cassandre’s posters sold at the same auction for over £10,000 each. Our mission is to find historically fascinating and beautifully designed posters from perhaps lesser known artists. This way they are more affordable and have the potential to increase more in value in the future. There are still plenty of relatively affordable and excellent vintage posters in a wide range of styles, colours, and themes. As the poster market becomes more sophisticated, people are also discovering amazing vintage posters from many other countries than just France. There are many gorgeous vintage posters coming from Switzerland, Germany, Spain, and Eastern Europe among others. We are also very into illustrations and ads from vintage magazines. These are more affordable compared to posters as more have survived. I think these make equally beautiful art and provide an amazing window into history. All our magazine pieces go through the same conservation process as our posters. (i.e. we wash them and back them on acid-free linen paper) making them ready for framing. Although conservation and backing is relatively common among quality poster dealers, to my knowledge no one else does this to magazine page illustrations/advertisements. It is important for me to point this out because that’s what makes us stand out from the competition. When you are buying a piece like this from us you are buying a conserved and mounted piece that’s ready to live another 100+ years and not just a brittle, dusty page from a 100-year-old magazine. We take pride in what we do to each of our pieces to prepare them for someone’s home before making them available for sale.
Q5) Are there any famous Parisian locations you might share with us that have this sort of art in their design scheme?
There are some original French cafes and brasseries that have all original Art Nouveau or Art Deco interiors and art. One great example, is La Crémaillère in Montmartre (neighbourhood of Paris) where Alphonse Mucha frescoes decorate the walls at this veritable monument to 19th-century fin-de-siècle art. Another is the Parisian Folies Bergère Cabaret, opened in 1869, and still functioning today. It not only contains some great posters in its lobby, but a number of famous posters were created to advertise the theatre.
Another is the iconic Maxim’s Cafe, where the artist going by the pen-name SEM, painted the famous caricatures of Parisian high society.
Q6) Please educate us on the typical price range to expect when shopping for this kind of art.
Although posters can range in price depending on rarity, age, condition, and theme from $500 to $50,000+ Rue Marcellin focuses on value pieces that range from $500 to $2,500. Prints, illustrations, and magazine advertisements generally range from $100 to $500.
Q7) One of the things I love about these works is their size. Talk to us about that.
One of the things that makes many posters absolutely incredible is their size. If one has room, a very large poster can make an incredible focal point. Some of the largest posters we currently carry are almost 7’ in height or length. They generally come in portrait-style. But we do have a few landscape format that is generally a lot rarer for posters.
Q8) Please walk us through the difference between POSTERS and PRINTS:
We generally sell: – Posters – they were pasted around the cities and used to advertise everything from laundry detergent to theatre productions, to exhibitions. There were also propaganda posters (war posters, etc.). Posters were usually fairly large. – “Prints” – this is just our general category that we use and includes things like: illustrations from vintage magazines, like our collection from the La Vie Parisienne magazine that ran in the early 1900s, you can see these on our site. – then there are also what we call “collector prints”. For example, people were so into the posters in the 1900s that poster clubs were formed and the print houses reprinted the posters in smaller formats. One famous example is called the Maîtres de l’Affiche (Masters of the Poster) series. These are smaller reprints of the large posters and were printed within a year of the original poster for collectors. Another example are the caricatures of rich Parisians illustrated by Georges Goursat (pen name SEM).
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