Fine Wine GUIDE

Champagne is Art

Champagne is Art
Written by Aksel Ritenis
Champagne is Art Champagne is synoymous with celebrating. It comes in many styles, but true champagne comes only from the region of the same name. The very name “Champagne” denotes celebration. We serve it at weddings to celebrate newlyweds. We launch ships with it, not to mention bringing in the New Year!
By the 1870’s Paris was a gaudy mélange of posters; they were pasted to kiosks, train stations, buildings, carriages and pissoirs. They advertised everything: sport­ing and cultural events, new products, political protests, book publications and beautiful women.
In France, the poster quickly became an art form.

LA BELLE EPOCH 1890-1914

Champagne poster - Joseph Perrier “The beautiful time”, and the height of French poster fever and fashion. In 1891 Toulouse-Lautrec’s first poster, Moulin Rouge, boosted the status of the poster from ephemera to fine art. Posters took over the cities of Europe, with subjects that varied from country to country. In France, the café was the center of life. Some Parisians ate three times a day at cafés, where they drank and people watched with their meals. Absinthe, champagne and other alcoholic beverages were the main advertising topics.

Cheret’s color stone lithography laid the groundwork for the modern poster, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec brought it to the forefront in the 1890’s. His bold compositions, simple incisive lines, and expert use of angles and perspectives intro­duced a whole new style in poster art. Toulouse-Lautrec and his artist followers made obvious statements in their poster designs.
Belle Epoch poster art was again influenced by a new style: Art Nouveau. Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) literally wrote the book on “Documents Decoratif.” Every component of this style is seen in Mucha’s art: elaborate, nature-themed ornamentation; idealized female subjects; fine drawing and the use of symbolism and allegory.

Mucha also became affiliated with several elite beverage com­panies. His poster for Ruinart, the first champagne company, featured an elegance demure young woman, seemed to per­sonify elegance except for her hair, which had taken on a life of its own. This out of control coiffure hinted the “heady” effects of Champagne Ruinart. Mucha’s lovely poster girls often told much about the poster, with their hair.

Champagne poster MauzanIn addition to Champagne Ruinart, Moet and Chandon rec­ognized Mucha’s artistic and advertising genius and hired him to create all of their commercial designs. He also made a variety of posters for cognac and Benedictine.

Champagne has featured prominently in popular culture for over a century, due in part to a long history of effectivemarketing and product placement by leading Champagne houses and their representatives, such as CIVC.

The wine came to symbolize the “good life” to which all peo­ple could aspire. It also brought charges of decadence and indulgence as the humorist Mark Twain once commented: “Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.”

Towards the end of the 19th century, with a new cohesion in social groups based on economic choices, the beginnings of consumer culture brought Champagne to the fore as a delin­eator of class and status, becoming what has been described as a “centrepiece of bourgeois” society.

This came about in part by the usual, informal pursuit of traditional practices and social norms. However, there was a great deal of careful and deliberate generation of rituals and images surrounding Champagne, not by any one agency or department, but as a result of widespread commercial efforts to market and popularise its consumption.

Champagne poster Petit MarquisThe “story” of Champagne wine was gradual lyre-told, ef­fectively suppressing outdated and unfashionable ideas and images and promoting more desirable ones. This served not only the interests of Champagne négociants but the French nation as a whole; by the first World War, Champagne had become a prominent and powerful symbol of the nation’s sta­tus as a producer of quality goods in general, and vanguard of style and culture worldwide. It became, in effect, a major symbol of France

During World War II, the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, once motivated the British forces with the claim “Remember, gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne.’’

By this time, Champagne had come to be seen not only as a luxury but as a worldwide cultural treasure.

French producers commissioned a diverse range of artists to produce advertising material, most notably posters, which dramatically raised the profile of both producer and artist alike.

The works are still recognized and highly prized for the inartistic merit.

A List of famous artists and works involving Champagne includes such names as: Pierre Bonnard, Alfons Mucha, Walter Crane, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec.

Champagne also makes a more informal appearance in paintings by masters such as: Édouard Manet in Un bar aux Folies-Bergère (1882), Paul Cézanne in Chez le Père Lathuile (1879) and Chaise, bouteille et pommes (1906), Théodule Ri­bot in Nature morte (1886).

About the author

Aksel Ritenis

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