Leonetto Cappiello and Jean d’Ylen’s posters: colour takes centre stage





Leonetto Cappiello, Jean d’Ylen, French poster designers, Billboards


Undoubtedly, Frenchmen Jules Cheret and Henri Toulouse Lautrec laid the foundations of modern poster art. At the end of the 19th century, street walls were covered with bright, eye-catching, and colourful posters: the hurried and distracted passer-by was attracted by seductive and dynamic figures in bright colours. At the beginning of the 20th century, the advertising poster spread in France thanks to a few Parisian printing houses, including Imprimerie E?tabliments Vercasson and Maison Devambez, among the first actual advertising agencies. In 1900, the Leghorn-born Leonetto Cappiello, then a naturalised Frenchman, made his debut as 'Mai?tre affichiste' in the Vercasson printing house for a collaboration that was to last until the advent of the First World War; his place, from 1919, was taken by Jean d'Ylen, until then practically unknown. Cappiello's prestige, quality and competence are unavoidable, but the many aspects they have in common are undeniable. Both draw their subjects with a comic, almost caricature-like verve, figures full of dynamism, reminiscent of photographic snapshots, but above all, the colour choices unite them. It is colour that permeates their advertisements: their characters stand out against the dark background of the scene, and from the black experiences emerge figures in brightly coloured clothes, playing with the contrasts of complementary colours. Red and green, blue and orange, and white with barely noticeable yellow brush strokes stand out against the black background, as do the lettering in a yellow ranging from lemon to intense chrome. Their colour choices are free and extrovert, vermilion elephants, red or green horses, animals, plants, and objects in the most varied shades, almost all unconventional: colour becomes the protagonist.


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How to Cite

“Leonetto Cappiello and Jean d’Ylen’s posters: colour takes centre stage” (2023) Cultura e Scienza del Colore - Color Culture and Science, 15(02), pp. 66–74. doi:10.23738/CCSJ.150208.