Friday, March 6, 2009

Paul Colin, Josephine Baker and Leroy

Yesterday I found myself having lunch with two of my daughters at Ada's Famous Deli on Wabash here in Chicago.  This isn't someplace that I would seek out myself but it's close to one of daughter's office and apparently this isn't just Ada's but Ada's Famous Deli as it states right on the door so we just had to duck inside and see what all the fuss was about.  When a menu is about eight pages long and all day breakfast includes something called fried egg matzo with salami (it was fabulous) you know you're in a good place.  

Staring down at me throughout this yummy lunch was this: 

A tiny bit creepy but so very intriguing.  Certainly worth Googling when I got home and well, here goes.  

This poster is the work of Paul Colin, a French artist born in Nancy in 1892  who eventually become one of France's best poster artists.  The work you see above is rare for him as it is a commercial advertisement done for one of his friends and considered one of his best works. Colin's philosophy was one of succinctness and always working towards being a 'telegram addressed to the awareness'.  I like that thought process.  Really makes you strive to bring things to a minimum.   

His real break came when he was asked to create posters for the Théâtre des Champs Élysée advertising their La Revue Négre, featuring a young new phenom,  Josephine Baker.  Their relationship was both personal and professional as the two became lovers and remained friends throughout their lives.  In addition to creating posters for the shows held at the theater, Colin also worked on costumes and sets.  In 1927, he put together an event without equal, Bal Nègre, attended by 3000 Parisians crazy for the jazz inspired music and dance that Ms Baker was becoming so famous for.  Tout Paris was dancing the Charleston until the wee hours of the morning providing future generations with the all the glitz and glamour referred to as the Jazz Age. 

This poster came later, in the late 40's, advertising Chicago based Katherine Dunham's dance troupe.  Another gifted black dancer, she too took Paris by storm with her Caribbean Rhapsody.  This woman's biography is incredibly impressive and her work went far beyond her stage career.  I'll link you to more about this beautiful and most impressive citizen of the world. 

All told, Mr. Colin produced about 1900 posters and is responsible for a genre of poster art that remains completely contemporary in today's world.  Who knew that a Chicago landmark deli would provide me with so much new knowledge.  Thanks, Ada. 

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