Bal des Barbus

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Raymond Savignac (1907-2002), Bal des Barbus, 1950. Published by Watelet-Arbelot in Paris. TC094 Oversize Theater Posters Collection.

Although the Bearded Balls were held in Paris throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Raymond Savignac was only responsible for one of its posters. In an obituary for the popular graphic artist, Richard Hollis writes,

“Raymond Savignac, who has died aged 94, was the last of the great Parisian poster artists. For several decades, their works lit up the métro, and those by Savignac were the most entertainingly unmissable. He claimed that his career began in 1949 with the poster, Monsavon Au Lait. ‘I simply thought of a cake of soap for Monsavon, and a cow for the milk,’ he said. With a comic picture of a cow, its udders emptying themselves into a bar of soap, he made a visual scandal - and he went on making them well into his 90s.”

“…By chance, while touring the Paris publicity agents, Savignac met Cassandre, the most celebrated of these designers, and, in 1935, became his assistant. During Cassandre’s winter absences in New York, Savignac was found a place at the smart printers, Draeger Frères, but since Draeger commissioned their more interesting work from outside designers, it was more than a disappointment: ‘Là, c’était l’horreur.’ This horror was interrupted by another - the war.”

“After demobilisation, and during the Nazi occupation of France, Savignac was again unemployed. A colleague suggested he should hold an exhibition, an unusual course of action for a commercial artist. At that time, poster designers worked by preparing a graphic idea for an imaginary brand name product, which would then be hawked around advertisers in the hope that they could match the design to a client.”

“…The style of a Savignac poster has nothing in common with Cassandre’s purist compositions. But they share the humorous single figure, as it had appeared in Cassandre’s famous “Dubo, Du bon, Dubonnet” designs. The public could identify with these recurring, isolated comic characters. With the air of put-upon, but smiling, consumers, they often have the look of Savignac self-portraits.” —Richard Hollis, “Raymond Savignac: Brilliant poster artist who brought colour, wit and style to the French advertising industry,” The Guardian, November 8, 2002.