Beautiful Belle Epoque posters on show in Brussels City Museum

Beautiful Belle Epoque posters on show in Brussels City Museum

Today’s collectors might focus on paintings, while their children amass Pokémon cards. But at the turn of the century, “poster mania” was all the rage – with the increase of illustrated advertisements for everything from chocolate to cars, or biscuits to bicycles, finding immediate appeal in Brussels.

Brussels enthusiast Ernest de Try (1881-1960) amassed an impressive collection of Belle Epoque posters. And in 1934, the businessman, who also managed newspapers, donated some 300 of them to the Archives of the City of Brussels.

Now and until Sunday 3 September, Brussels City Museum is showcasing some 150 examples from this wonderful hoard in its latest temporary exhibition.

First seen in Paris, these posters “heralded the consumer society”, the museum’s website notes. “The artists set their sights on the image of the middle class, liberated women of the time, the desire for luxury and modernity,” it explains further.

As well as famous designs like “Le Chat Noir”, the fascinating selection includes Brussels-based works, such as those highlighting the city’s local J. Goffin printers, or extolling the delights of Brussels’ ‘Foire du Midi’ or 1910 ‘Exposition Universelle’.  

In addition, the posters reflect that, from 1885 to 1914, Brussels was experiencing one of the most prosperous periods in its history. The emergence of Art Nouveau also played its part in the poster age. And Brussels’ aforementioned 1910 world exhibition, preceding the important 1935 and 1958 (Expo 58) fairs, spearheaded technical innovations such as lithography and screen printing.

While, for conservation reasons, most of the works are facsimiles, the museum’s new show includes around 20 framed originals. These demonstrate the beauty of the lithographic inks used in the period.

Icing on the cake, the audioguide boasts an original soundtrack. Created by RTBF’s Marc Danval, a writer, journalist and jazz aficionado, it features extracts from music of the Belle Epoque era. Meanwhile, children have a whole creative “parcours” through the posters produced just for them.

The museum, right on the Grand’ Place and boasting more than 7,000 items showing the history of Brussels, including the original Manneken Pis statue, opens Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm. Tickets cost €8 for adults, €6 for seniors and are free for the under-18s.

Liz Newmark
The Brussels Times

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