Souvenir Du Lido Des Champs Elysees
Originally posted on June 28, 2014
In the travel section of one of my favorite used bookstores, I came across what looked to be a small booklet with a soft fold, opposed to a hard spine. Bare breasts framed in a heart instantly caught my eye and sold me. I knew whatever the booklet was, it was old and interesting. And though the breasts were naturally exposed, the die cut heart on the cover caught me off guard. Inside were four black and white 5"x7" photographs with a false deckle edge, along with three mini 3.5"x4.5" programs with a smooth matte finish.
I quickly searched for the date and any possible printing information that could be in the tri fold pamphlet that contained all of these souvenirs, but was left abandoned by everything other than a penciled in date of 23/1/45 in one program and a 9/11/44 written in blue ink on the back of another program, which said, “I’m having a good time! -mike” below it. We believe you, Mike.
With the lack of printing information in the pamphlet, the typography was the only thing that remained somewhat familiar to me. Between the outside cover and the type within each mini program is a mixture of Gill Sans and Futura, which would make sense for the time period. Gill Sans was getting a lot of usage for the London and North Eastern Railway on their signage and printed materials, for it was accessible and was favored for its unified and geometric design. But, Gill was still aware of the benefits serifs had in terms of readability and effective communication (Times came out around this time) (3). Gill Sans became more ubiquitous when it became the star of the classic penguin paperbacks designed for the easy modernist lifestyle. Cuz, you know, Helvetica hadn’t even been invented yet…and if it was, it would probably have been used instead. Once the cover is opened, Futura makes an appearance too (pretty sure it's Futura anyway), both beautiful geometric sans-serifs that are overused today, and it's completely understandable.
After doing a bit of research (seriously, just one source), I found Le Lido opened in 1928 and was a place of high society. It had large gaudy swimming pool, along with a restaurant. In 1929 the pool transformed into a set for dancing, making Le Lido a unique combination of food and entertainment. This change was most likely inspired by successful dance halls like the Moulin Rouge, which was built in 1889 and the Folies Bergère built in 1869. Le lido was later transformed in 1946 into what it is today, a full cabaret-restaurant (1). Due to the popularity of their extravagant shows, it is no surprise the program came with a few photos of previous performances that have taken place. Lavish costumes that manage to show full breasts and legs, while another only wearing a sash across her hips; Le Lido could’ve been/ could still be the place for a classy evening of debauchery.
The cabarets and night clubs played an important role in the history of graphic design, due to the art of poster making and advertisements. One of the most well known contributors, was the painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Fascinated by modern life, Toulouse-Lautrec built off of the impressionists as well as Japanese woodblock prints to form his own style that was colorful, expressive and even a bit satirical (2). Lautrec would often make posters advertising events at the Moulin Rouge using the successful method of chromolithography, allowing the work to function as both advertisements and works of art that could still be signed by the artist/designer (3).
Within my Souvenir du Lido brochure were three of the programs I mentioned earlier. Since two have the same illustrated cover, it is safe to assume they are both from 1945. The illustration itself makes it fairly obvious WWII had just ended, even if the year wasn't written on the top right corner, for it is extremely patriotic with both British and American flags joined together in a celebratory manner. I'm not about to go down the rabbit hole of American illustration during war time, or anything else for that matter, not yet anyway…
I almost put this piece back on the shelf due to the amount of things I already had in my hands, but I couldn't see myself really leaving without it. It may not be as fancy as an old historical book, but I've gotten to learn a lot about it and have gotten a better grasp on how various forms of design connects with history.
Yay history! Yay design! Yay boobs!
2. Kleiner, Fred. Gardner's Art Through the Ages - The Western Perspective. 13th ed. United States: Clark Baxter, 2010. Print.
3. Raizman, David. History of Modern Design. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2011. Print.
Artsy | Henri de Toulouse Lautrec: https://www.artsy.net/artist/henri-de-toulouse-lautrec