Corrections or additions?
This article by Pat Summers was prepared for the January 10,
2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
From Art Deco Paris: Pochoir Prints
In a way, any school child who enters a poster contest
knows about the art of pochoir, or stencil, printing. Early in the
20th century, though, this demanding technique was as exotic, and
as beautiful, as some of its subjects.
The French word "pochoir" (pronounced po-SHWAR) means
and the process of creating images through stencils — cut-out
designs that are printed on paper, and then hand-colored — was
adapted by French artists from the Japanese color-stencil process
known as "katagami" that reached the West with the trade boom
of the late 19th century. In Japan this technique had long been used
for printing elaborate decoratove patterns on silk and other textiles.
By the Art Deco period, when Paris was recognized as the center of
the world for all the decorative arts, Parisian artists and their
retinues of colorists were producing many-of-a-kind images
by stylized renderings of the passing scene in vibrant colors.
architecture and decor, life styles — these were the chief
of pochoir prints, which then often became part of portfolios and
books. Documenting this hedonistic era, about 100 original pochoir
prints are on exhibit in "Art Deco Paris: 1900-1925," in the
Leonard L. Milberg Gallery for the Graphic Arts at Princeton
Firestone Library, through April 8.
Dale Roylance, who curated the exhibition, has grouped the prints
around a number of themes — among them, the role of music and
dance, and the lure of the exotic and the "naughty." Visitors
to the second floor Milberg Gallery can enjoy vivid pochoir prints
showing people of the time dancing the tango, described as one of
the dance crazes of the ’20s that lasted; playing the piano, perhaps
something by Debussy, Satie, or Ravel, all then at their creative
peak; or singing art songs. The "Roaring ’20s" was also the
time of "le jazz hot," represented here in the sinuous person
of Josephine Baker, the black star of "Le Revue Negre" who
traveled from Harlem to Paris in 1925 for fame and fortune.
portray her in a succession of memorable "stop-action" poses.
As for the fascination of the exotic, and even the naughty, it may
have started with the captivating visit of Sergei Diaghilev’s Les
Ballets Russes to Paris in 1908. The color-saturated set and costume
designs by Leon Bakst, especially those for "Scheherazade,"
fed into a fashion frenzy for harem skirts and turbans. A concurrent
fascination with Oriental lacquer and Coromandel screens, as well
as "pillow prints," showing luxurious piles of plush,
pillows suggestive of Japan’s "pillow books" — manuals
for young ladies on making love — all serve to illustrate the
creed of worldly and sophisticated Parisians: "good times,
people, erotic dalliance, and exotic lifestyle." Epitomizing the
time and its pursuits, the "Seven Deadly Sins" series by
colorist George Barbier manages to suggest that "vice is
While the expression "fashion plate" today usually refers
to a woman dressed a la mode, during the Art Deco period it
described the popular artful illustrations of haute couture designs.
To spread the names and popularize the clothes of designers like Worth
and Lanvin — notable enough to be known only by their surnames
— a cadre of "fashion plate artists" grew, and the pochoir
prints they produced were known, literally, as "fashion
Paul Poiret, described as "an enterprising couturier,"
himself in "Les robes de Paul Poiret," a catalog of fashion
plates that is included in the show. Do our Macy’s, Saks, and
newspaper ads aspire to such artful immortality?
In our day, the poster contest entrant has it comparatively easy.
Trace the letters of the words with different stencils, perhaps do
the same with shapes for the design, then add color where desired.
Result: one poster. But what if 100 of them are needed? In that case,
the enterprising artist might try the "Tom Sawyer
gambit, and enlist credulous friends for a production line: You can
trace; you can do the red, you, the green; . . . and maybe
I’ll let you take over for me on the blue. . . With careful
enough instruction, many hands make light, and consistent, the work.
In France’s Art Deco era, such repetitious work was
usually the job of women and children, who might apply as many as
100 variations of color to a single print. And of course, it could
be much more complicated, involving textural differences, shading,
and sharp contrasts within each of these variations through brushing,
daubing, sponging, spraying, and spattering the pigment.
To begin with, the artist created an image to be reproduced in
watercolor and/or opaque gouache. Only after a color analysis and
count could both the number of stencils needed and their material
be determined. Fields of the same color were traced from the original
image onto a sheet of paper, which was in turn fastened to the
the stencil would be cut from. Once the cut stencils were flattened
in a press, a series of trial runs tested their accuracy and color
The sheets of paper to receive the color were then processed along
an assembly line, with each new shade applied only after the one
it had dried, and with strong colors usually put down first and
shades overlapping them. Finally, after a quality-control check,
pochoirs could be released commercially as "true multi-originals
of the artist’s creation."
The pochoir technique also enhanced everyday ephemera ranging from
fans, and parasols, to name tags, and from advertisements to packaging
of cosmetics. Joan Miro’s red Art Deco fan in pochoir is a vivid
to one display case. A few pochoir artists who produced comparatively
non-traditional images, or "ornamental abstractions," account
for the connection between pochoir and modern art, for which
down realism and refiguring form" was the name of the game.
One timeless, and invaluable, example of pochoir at its height is
the post-Art Deco book reproducing Henri Matisse’s paper cutouts for
"Jazz" — "a vibrant testimonial to color and
— that was printed in pochoir. Visitors to the Milberg Gallery
will see examples from the book that is known as the consummate
book of the 20th century.
This exhibition provides a trip through history via beautiful imagery
and color. Yet merely reaching the gallery can be a value-added
As you enter the Firestone Library lobby, first savor Isamu Noguchi’s
sculpted marble "White Sun." Then pass by (if you can) the
Cotsen Children’s Library, whose "please no food or drinks"
door sign is fittingly illustrated with an image from "Auguste
a mauvais caratere" — the tale of the "insupportable,
detestable und intractible toddler Auguste," written and
by Andre Devambez. Finally, walk through the Special Collections
area on your way to the elevator where you’ll find "A Community
of Scholars: Graduate Education at Princeton," an exhibit of more
than 100 photographs, documents, and artifacts that chronicle the
evolution of graduate studies at Princeton. There’s so much to see,
you may want to skip the one-hour parking meter and put the car in
— Pat Summers
609-258-5049. "Art Deco Paris: 1900-1925," a portrait of
society manifest in the pochoir printmaking technique. Open Monday
through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesday to 8 p.m.; Saturday and
Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Exhibit continues to April 8. Free.
A holiday exhibit of original watercolors by the Russian-born
Gennady Spirin from two new picture books: "Philipok" by Leo
Tolstoy, and "Joy to the World, a Family Christmas Treasury."
Gallery hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. To January
Nassau Street, 609-921-6748. "Old Traditions, New Beginnings,"
a major exhibition celebrating 250 years of Princeton Jewish history,
jointly presented and exhibited at the Jewish Center of Princeton.
This is the first-ever exhibit on the history of Princeton’s Jewish
community, scheduled to coincide with the Jewish Center’s 50th
Topics addressed include early arrivals, family life, social
work and business pursuits, religious traditions, and anti-Semitism.
On view through March.
Dining room exhibit of works by Pennsylvania resident artist Susan
Ketcham. Part of the proceeds benefit the Medical Center. On view
daily, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., to January 18.
Library Place, 609-497-7990. "Witnessing to the Word," a group
show featuring the work of sculptor Patrick Birge, potter Patrick
Caughy, and painter Patrick Ellis. The artists met through a
of theological schools. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m.
to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday, 2 to 9:30 p.m. To January
First day for "The Familiar and Not So Familiar," an exhibit
of works by digital artist Roman Verostko that includes traditional
landscapes and still lifes to futuristic visions of space and nature.
Gallery hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. To January
American Tradition in Drawings," to January 28. "Contemporary
Photographs," to February 25. On extended view in the Bowen
Richard Serra’s "Weight and Measure" etchings. The museum
is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 5
p.m. Free tours of the collection are every Saturday at 2 p.m. Free.
The permanent collection features a strong representation of Western
European paintings, old master prints, and original photographs.
of Chinese, Pre-Columbian Mayan, and African art are considered among
the museum’s most impressive. Not housed in the museum but part of
the collection is the John B. Putnam Jr. Memorial Collection of
outdoor sculpture, with works by such modern masters as Henry Moore,
Alexander Calder, Pablo Picasso, and George Segal located throughout
The Graduate School continues its centennial observance with the
"A Community of Scholars: Graduate Education at Princeton,"
an exhibition of more than 100 photographs, documents, and artifacts
that chronicle the evolution of graduate studies at Princeton. Library
is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesday to 8 p.m.;
Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To April 8.
732-846-5777. "Herend: Hungarian Porcelain at its Finest,"
an exhibition of hand-painted porcelain pieces created since the
founding in 1839. Museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to
4 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. To February 25. $5 donation.
215-340-9800. "The Lenfest Exhibition of Pennsylvania
Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest bequeathed 59 paintings that tell the
story of the renowned art colony, centered in New Hope, in the early
20th Century. Museum hours Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.;
Saturday & Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Wednesday evenings to 9
p.m. To February 11. Admission $5 adults; $1.50 students.
Also, "In Line with Al Hirschfeld," a retrospective
Hirschfeld’s life, career, and the history of the performing arts.
Exhibit, with accompanying lecture, tour, and film series, to February
11. "Carved, Incised, Burnished and Gilded: The Bucks County
Tradition," featuring 50 objects that tell the story of the
well-regarded group of frame artists led by Frederick Harer and Ben
Badura; to March 18.
New Brunswick, 732-932-7237. The newly expanded and renovated museum
features "Michael Mazur: A Print Retrospective" covering a
40-year span of the artist’s career, to February 16. Museum hours
are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday,
noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $3 for adults age 18 and up; free for
children and students; admission is free on the first Sunday of each
Also on exibit: "Monotypes in Contemporary American
from the rich resources of the Rutgers Archives for Printmaking
to February 18. "Realities and Utopias: Abstract Painting from
the Dodge Collection," to January 14. "Opening Up: A
of Artistic Dialogue between Japan and the West" (ongoing). And
"A World of Stage: Designs for Theater, Opera, and Dance from
the Riabov Collection," to March 31.
609-586-0616. Fall-Winter Exhibition. In the Domestic Arts Building:
"James Dinerstein: New Sculpture," recent works in cast
"Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture."
Show continues to April 8. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to
9 p.m., year round; Sunday is Members Day. Admission is $4 Tuesday
to Thursday; $7 Friday and Saturday; and $10 Sunday.
609-292-6464."Nikon’s Small World 2001" to January 18. "Artists’
Visions, Artists’ Views" to January 30. "Dinosaurs, Ammonites
& Asteroids," to January 21. Museum is open Tuesday through
9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Closed Monday and state
On extended view: "The Modernists;" "Fine and Decorative
Arts Collections;" "New Jersey Ceramics, Silver, Glass and
Iron;" "New Jersey’s Native Americans: The Archaeological
Record;" "Delaware Indians of New Jersey;" "The Sisler
Collection of North American Mammals;" "Of Rock and Fire;
New Jersey and the Great Ice Age;" "Dinosaur Turnpike: Treks
through New Jersey’s Piedmont;" "Amber: the Legendary
and "Washington Crossing the Delaware."
Also, at the Department of State Building, 225 West State Street,
Trenton, an exhibit of "New Jersey Artists in the Collection of
the New Jersey State Museum," through January 31.
"Small Works Show" featuring drawing, painting, photography,
and sculpture by 18 gallery artists including Gail Bracegirdle, Alan
Klawans, Lisa Mahan, Marc Reed, and Annelies Van Dommelen. To February
Holiday show features watercolors by Lucy Graves McVicker and casein
paintings by Katherine Steele Renninger. Gallery hours are Wednesday
to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. To January 14.
Dramatic landscape and wildlife photographs by nature photographer
Richard Demler. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.;
Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Tuesday and Sunday. To January 29.
Road, 609-921-3272. "Joel Popadics: Recent Traditional
Also, the Professional Artists Group’s holiday show. Gallery hours
are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. Both
shows to January 26.
609-895-7307. A new series of oil on paper and mixed-media paintings
by Wanda Blake, a professional artist living in Morris County who
studied at Newark’s School of Fine and Industrial Arts. Curated by
Gary Snyder Fine Art, gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to
5 p.m. To January 26.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.