Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

Today, I'd like to present an artist who was lucky enough to catch the Jazz Age spirit and talented enough to preserve it in his prints and sketches.

Paul Colin. Revue Negre. 1924

A number of French poster artists have been already featured here: A.M. Cassandre, Géo Ham, Jean Carlu. The legacy of Paul Colin (1892-1985) is no less important. His posters continue to influence the artistic community, and if our genre needs more inspiration, here it is.

Unsurprisingly, you won't find a lot about Colin in English. This article is a compilation of a short bio and a bit more detailed review, with some minor additions written by yours truly. I believe the artist would just laugh at his present-day obscurity. He had a good sense of humor and was well capable of a healthy self-irony, as can be seen in his photo-collage self portrait created somewhere around 1930.

Paul Colin was a master of the Art Deco poster. With over 1900 posters and many book designs, theatre set and costume designs to his name, he was one of the foremost graphic artists of the period.

Colin was born and raised in Nancy, France. Very early on, much to his father's disapproval, Colin became fascinated with art. At the age of 15, he was an apprentice at a nearby printing house and at 18, he enrolled at L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Colin excelled at his studies and made his debut into the art world at the company of Eugene Vallin. His work became known but it was not until he created his first poster for a small but established journal that he was ready to take on Paris. Colin came to Paris in 1912, a very volatile time for the country, where he soon found himself in the middle of World War One. Following the War, he returned to Paris to resume his poster career.

Paul Colin. Paris JazzHe is best known for his poster for La Revue Nègre in 1925. The star of this show, Josephine Baker, took Paris by storm. She was an African American singer, dancer and all round entertainer who caused a sensation with her revealing costumes, banana skirt and live cheetah. Colin's poster for this memorable show, depicts “La Baker” with two black jazz musicians, in brilliant red and black stylized caricature (see the headline picture).

Paul Colin. Bal Negre II. 1925Colin, having become the lover of Josephine Baker and a life-long friend, designed many other posters for her performances and for her recordings, and helped promote her career. She in return was his muse and inspired many great artworks which have remained popular to this day.*

Paul Colin. Loie Fuller. 1925Paul Colin designed posters for many other artists and theatres including the Folies Bergères, the Moulin Rouge and the Théâtre des Champs Elysées.

Paul Colin. Grock Odeon. 1930He produced posters for festivals and exhibitions, transport and travel companies, the Wiener and Docet Piano Company, the French Loterie Nationale, and products such as cigarettes and alcohol. He designed French film posters, such as Le Voyage Imaginaire, and also produced stage and costume designs for the theatre.

Paul Colin. The Imaginary VoyageAlthough not as well-known as Cassandre , his work is highly collectable. An original of his 1929 poster “La Revue Black Birds at the Moulin Rouge” is valued in excess of ₤100,000 in Miller's Art Deco Collector's Guide.

Paul Colin. Order Your Quart of VichyHis designs contain elements of jazz, bold striking colors, and influences from both Cubism and Surrealism. Highly stylized, or caricatured human forms are oddly juxtaposed with geometric overlapping objects like a Cubist collage.

Paul Colin. Peugeot. 1935He was also responsible for probably the loveliest advert ever made for Peugeot.

Paul Colin 1937Colin was seldom involved into any form of political activity. Anyway, he took part into pro-Republican campaign during the Spanish Civil War (above). And with the start of WWII, he produced a print roughly equal to the famous "Loose Lips Sink Ships" and "Don't Blabber!" (below).

Paul Colin. Silence. 1940Just before the fall of France, Colin was commissioned a poster for the colonial exhibition in Paris. I wonder if this seemingly pompous event ever happened.

Paul Colin. Overseas France. 1940Any idea of Colin's life during the occupation of France? There's no sign of him leaving the country or, on the contrary, collaborating with the Vichy regime. In 1944, he returned to the scene with a laconic Liberation poster:

Paul Colin. Liberation. 1944Many graphic artists and designers benefited from the “Ecole Paul Colin”, a school for the graphic arts in Paris where he passed on his skills for more than 40 years.

Paul Colin. L'Effort--------------------------------

* One may ask where are all those iconic drawings of Josephine Baker half-naked. Alas, our host, armed with some modern version of the Hays Code, doesn't encourage such 'frivolous' images. So please accept my apologies, read a nice article elsewhere and use the links. Like this. Or that.

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Comment by lord_k on August 8, 2012 at 12:41pm

Thanks Stefan. Great documentary footage and valuable info.

Isn't it ironic: the exhibition opening coincided with the start of the German offensive.

Comment by Stefan on August 8, 2012 at 8:10am

Another wonderful post with wonderful images, Lord K. Thank you very much.

Answering your question, yes, the second edition of the France d'Outre-Mer Exhibition did take place at the Grand Palais in Paris in 1940, in spite of the war. See it just like if you were there with this #32 edition of the War News compiled by the very official ECPAD (Etablissement de Communication et de Production Audiovisuelle de la Défense), or, in other words, the communication agency of the French Ministère de la Défensehttp://www.ecpad.fr/journal-de-guerre-32-semaine-du-9-mai-1940

Albert Lebrun, President of the Republic then, set the exhibition open in May 1940. The fair was said to be "an expression of the French wealth and power on the five continents and a tribute to the overseas populations and the vast help they bring to the metropolitan France (sic). The speaker in the movie doesn't hesitate to mention with the appropriate tone of voice that "so immense is the French Empire, then, that the sun never sets on it. How pompous was that?

For more French pomposity and debatable colonialist spirit and rampant racism,you may want to have a second look to this older post I made a while ago: http://www.dieselpunks.org/profiles/blogs/colonial-empire

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