March 8, 2019
Posters and wine: advertising and propaganda
Posters, designed to be displayed in the street and other public places, are used for advertising and propaganda. The end of the 19th century was the ‘golden age’ of posters, with artists such as Toulouse-Lautrec, and posters of the time promoted the joie de vivre brought about by wine. The First World War, far from slowing their production, saw an explosion of propaganda posters.
JOIE DE VIVRE
Aged just 23, Bonnard produced a masterpiece with this poster commissioned by the France-Champagne brand. “Everyone is asking me for my poster,” he wrote to his mother. Félix Fénéon, future editor of La Revue Blanche, wrote “the first printed poster to joyfully shine from our walls since Daumier… It signals a renewal in the art of printing – in that art that Toulouse-Lautrec will push to the limits of refinement and mastery.” This iconic poster meets the expectations of modern advertising: a simple, readable image which draws the eye with a visual shock. The focal point of the poster is the bubbling glass of champagne. The young woman seems to be coming out of it, sparkling like the wine, and the sunshine-yellow background reflects its color. Champagne is once again presented as a symbol of celebration and pleasure, of joie de vivre.
THE PINARD OF THE POILUS
The chronic surplus of wine at the start of the 20th century was to be absorbed by the ‘poilus’ of the Great War. This conflict, the first ‘world war’, was exceptionally bloody on all sides (nine million dead, plus 20 million injured). The conflict began on the 3rd August 1914 and, before the end of the month, the viticulteurs of the Midi region had donated 200,000 hectolitres to the soldiers at the Front. At the Front, the army’s wine was served in abundance. It was decried by soldiers for being musty, chemical-tasting, adulterated... As it was coloured purple with aniline, a fuchsia-coloured dye, the soldiers nicknamed the wine le fuchsia (Henri Barbusse refers to this in Le Feu). Nevertheless, it was always eagerly received. The wine consumed helped to boost soldiers’ morale and courage. For Christophe Lucand, “the men had to hold firm. Leaders were haunted by the memory of past defeats, namely that of 1870 and the disasters that had followed it. They were afraid of seeing the Front split apart.” The army’s High Command judged it indispensable: “A man, like a sack, only stands up if he is filled” (André Bridoux, Souvenirs du temps des morts). Le fuchsia was to be ‘the plonk of victory’.
WINE AND THE ARTS