The Deco graphic had been, at this point, a successful recipe for commercialism for over a decade. Advertising during this time was designed to hit you like a punch in the face: quick, clear, and hard. In a world where pace had quickened with the advent of cars and increasing industrialization, commercialism had to adapt in a way where they could compete and still stand out. Bold colors, heavy lines, minimal text and detail all became vital characteristics of this new, exciting brand of graphic design. In addition, consumers also began to see more and more branding and merchandising involved in marketing, such as resonating mascots and slogans that would soon become just as famous as the companies and products themselves. We still see this success today with the ‘Michelin Man’ and ‘Cointreau’s Pierrot,’ just a few examples.
When considering the concept of the Art Deco style, de Valerio’s masterpiece Huile de la Croix Verte could not stand out more. Branching out far away from the successful and assuredly safe norm, this poster takes on the vision of an exquisite still life—elegant, sophisticated, classic.
This type of design wasn’t seen very often in posters not only because of the practicality factor, but also because of the extreme work that went into it. As a Stone Lithograph, everything you see in the poster was etched into limestone. Each color was etched into a separate stone, and then the paper was pulled through each stone, one by one. This antiquated form of printing is incredibly painstaking, requiring a team of printers to etch, register, print, and repeat a countless number of times. All of this to print one, single sheet of paper. Now imagine doing that a thousand times. The precision required in executing such a rich and exquisite Stone Litho is paramount and impressive. When looking at the Croix Verte, the amount of detail and minutiae is astounding; the texture of the printing, the perfect amount of shadowing and highlighting, the layering of colors…all of this creates life, movement and emotion in an otherwise still image.
Huile de la Croix Verte, today, is an unbelievable find. Twenty years ago, there was a small quantity that was known to be on the market. And by small, we mean tiny. A handful. A woman, a French poster dealer who had been in the business for decades at that point retained the last that had survived, but before long had swapped and traded and sold until the piece was pronounced: done…gone…fin.
Last winter, Alan went on one of his yearly trips to France, where he had just missed seeing this woman, his friend, before she passed away. Going to her house to pay his respects to her and her children, her son shared with Alan something he had found under his mother’s bed: a tube that hadn’t been open in over two decades. Inside were a handful of posters, a few of them nothing too special, except for one. Rolled deep inside was the Huile de la Croix Verte, well preserved and beautiful. True ephemera, it was only meant to be around for a week or two. Today, it’s the final piece of the last known quantity, that up until 6 months ago, no one knew even existed. Not being on the market in over two decades, it truly is a treasure to be seen today.