In late 19th-century France, avant-garde artists such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec turned to the poster as an art form that, despite or because of its commercial associations, could cast color prints in a new light. The influential critic André Mellerio noted that modern color prints like Toulouse-Lautrec’s combined the careful craft of prints with the bold graphic design of posters. In Divan Japonais, which advertises a Parisian nightclub known for its pseudo-Japanese décor, the singer Jane Avril occupies the center, her orange hair contrasting boldly with the black silhouette of her body. Together, the curvilinear yellow chair, Avril’s crumpled handbag, and the beard and cane of her companion, the writer Édouard Dujardin, create a pattern of flat colored shapes similar to those seen in original art prints of the same period. This convergence of styles helped color prints achieve a status as original, autonomous creations—“a personal conception, something realized for its own sake,” as Mellerio wrote.
Resource: Chelsea Foxwell and Anne Leonard, Awash in Color: French and Japanese Prints, exh. cat. (Chicago: Smart Museum of Art, 2012), pp. 117, 144.