Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nice

Nice, France | C.1928

Photo Credit: Joe Pritchard

Nice, the largest city on the French Riviera’s coastline, was an enclave to artists and writers for the first half of the 20th century. Such legends as Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Nietzsche, and Chekov gallivanted around town, drawing inspiration from its illustrious bays, flat beaches, and hillsides rising into the Ligurian Alps. Among those who were both inspired by and, in turn, impactful on the city was painter and lithographer Jules Chéret, father of the modern poster.

Chéret, born of humble beginnings and raised with a limited education, studied art by wandering the museums of Paris, before moving to London to train as a lithographer. There, he became predominantly influenced by the British approach to poster design and printing, then brought that training back to France, where he was sought after to create vivid poster ads for cabarets, music halls, and theaters such as Eldorado and the Moulin Rouge.

He rose to prominence when his posters began to depict modest yet free-spirited females, popularly dubbed ‘Cherettes,’ who were joyous, elegant, and lively–in stark contrast to the portrayal of women in art as either prostitutes or puritans. He expanded his poster-making business to include plays of touring troupes, municipal festivals, then onto beverages and liquors, perfumes, soaps, and cosmetics. He had multiple advertising markets covered, extending even to manufacturing and railroad companies.

Chéret retired back along the coast in Nice, which subsequently inspired the museum’s original name–“Palais des Arts Jules Chéret”–which still houses one of his most famous works, Lunch on the Grass (1904). Though this institution is small in scale, the collection spans four centuries of French painting and sculpture by those who lived, worked, lunched, and were inspired by the French Riviera’s landscapes and lifestyle.

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