1896, Théophile Alexandre Steinlen (1859 - 1923)
lithograph in seven colours on wove paper on linen,
242 cm x 299 cm
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (purchased with support from the VriendenLoterij)
Colourful posters were a common sight in the streets of fin-de-siècle Paris. They were more than mere advertisements – some were genuine works of art. High-quality designs by progressive young artists were printed by specialist printshops. Théophile Alexandre Steinlen created this gigantic poster to advertise the master printer Charles Verneau.
The Street is one of Steinlen’s most important works of art. Its large scale meant the poster had to be printed in no fewer than six separate parts. With its sparkling expanses of colour, decorative patterns and vivid content, the work has everything that made poster-art so innovative in this period.
Steinlen presents a contemporary street scene, with people from every walk of life: the capitalist, the laundrywoman, the elegant Parisian lady and the worker. The artist has made all the figures the same height, as in a frieze in a classical temple or a fresco in a church. It is with good reason that at the time, posters were referred to as 'frescoes for the masses'.