Theatrophone – Art by Jules Chéret (1896) 11.75″ x 15.75″ French Chromolithograph Plate #33


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Les Maitres de l’Affiche (The Masters of the Poster) is one of the most prestigious and influential art publications in history. Its 256 color plates from the turn of the century were issued as separate numbered sheets measuring 15 5/8 x 11 1/2 inches every month for 60 consecutive months. From December 1895 through November 1900, subscribers received a wrapper containing four consecutively numbered poster lithographic works. On 16 occasions, the monthly wrapper also contained a bonus plate, not a poster reproduction, but a specially created art lithograph. Jules Cheret, artistic director of Imprimerie Chaix and father of the modern poster, emerged with the majority of the plates, one of every 4 issued per month, and seven of the 16 bonus plates. Of the 97 artists represented in Les Maitres de l’Affiche, some were preeminent painters and printmakers at various stages of their careers, Toulouse-Lautrec and Bonnard among them. There were also those artists whose names say “poster”, the pioneers of the new medium such as Cheret himself, Mucha, Steinlen, the Beggarstaffs, Grasset, and Parrish.

“I can be visited in bed by the brook and the birds of [Beethoven’s] Pastoral Symphony,” wrote Marcel Proust, because of the wonderful invention of the Théâtrophone. Clement Adler invented the prototype in 1881 (the first demonstrated use of binaural audio) to broadcast a Paris Opera performance to listeners at the Palais de l’Industrie. In 1890, however, the technology became commercially available – and Chéret’s poster was the definitive advertisement for it. In lightning-quick time, home subscriptions became available, while Théâtrophones were set up in hotels, restaurants, cafés and vestibules throughout Paris. Fifty centimes bought you five minutes of live music straight from the Ópera Garnier. Today, 3D audio in headphones and VR is an innovation derived directly from the binaural audio innovation of the Théâtrophone: making this poster an important artifact in the history of the recording arts and sciences.

Issued as numbered plates in the series Le Maîtres de l’Affiche, bearing the blindstamp of the program (Lugt 1777c) in the sheet lower right. Published by Jules Chéret; printed at Impremiere Chaix (Atelier Chéret), Paris.

Condition: VG/EXC – minor foxing

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Weight1 lbs
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