Once upon a time, advertising was art. There was a period when creating amazing advertisements for products–such as cigarettes, soap, food, bicycles, and even cultural events—was a fulfilling form of self-expression for artists. The true golden era (one can call it La Belle Époque) shined from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of World War I.

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I adore the work that came out of the advertising industry in the 20th century: The atomic fifties, the smooth sixties, the hippie seventies, the weird eighties. But, somehow, the end of the 19th century and its transition into the 20th was radically different. Art Nouveau and the Secessionists, the optimistic and peaceful progression of science—this age, and its ephemeral forms, was very special.

Check out the following examples, and you'll see where I'm coming from.


Andalusia at the time of the Moors exposition, Paris, 1900. Artist: Eugène Samuel Grasset.

Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France


Mosaics by Escofet-Tejera and Co., Spain, 1900. Artist: Alexandre de Riquer.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya


Absinthe Robette, Bruxelles, 1896. Artist: Privat Livemont.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Library Of Congress


Rajah Tea, Bruxelles, Bruxelles, 1896. Artist: Privat Livemont.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya


Chocolat Mexicain Masson, Paris, 1892. Artist: Eugène Samuel Grasset.

Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France


A la Place Clichy, France, 1891. Artist: Eugène Samuel Grasset.

Source: Los Angeles County Museum of Art


L. Marquet ink, France, 1892. Artist: Eugène Samuel Grasset.

Source: Los Angeles County Museum of Art


Jeanne d'Arc–Sarah Bernhardt (actress), France, 1889-1894. Artist: Eugène Samuel Grasset.

Source: Los Angeles County Museum of Art


Salon of the One Hundred, 17th Exhibition, Paris, 1895. Artist: Paul Berthon.

Source: Los Angeles County Museum of Art


Dayton bicycles, France, c1898. Artist: Henry Thiriet.

Source: Los Angeles County Museum of Art


Cosmydor Savon soap, France, 1891. Artist: Jules Chéret (France, Paris, 1836-1932)

Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France


The Loïe Fuller show, Paris, 1894. Artist: Pal (Jean de Paleologu).

Source: Médiathèque Les Silos


Madrid Expo, 1893. Artist: Eugène Samuel Grasset.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya


Albert Morris Bagby's new novel: Miss Träumerei, Boston, 1895. Artist: Ethel Reed.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya


III. Manes Exhibition Association, 1900. Artist unknown.

Source: eSbírky


Petrol Stella, Paris, 1897. Artist: Henri Gray (Henri Boulanger).

Source: Library Of Congress


Waverley cycles, Paris, 1898. Artist: Alphonse Mucha.

Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France


Modern House, Paris, 1901. Artist: Manuel Orazi.

Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France


Exposition hygiene. Milano, 1900. Artist: Adolfo Hohenstein.

Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France


Déesse bicycle, Paris, c1890. Artist: Jean de Paleologue.

Source: Library Of Congress


Nestlé's food for infants, Paris, 1897. Artist: Alphonse Mucha.

Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France


Rayon d'Or light fixture, Paris, 1895. Artist: Jean de Paleologue.

Source: Library Of Congress


The Geisha from Daly's Theatre London, Belfast, 1895. Artist unknown.

Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France


Cigarrillos Paris, 1901. Artist: Aleardo Villa.

Source: Wikimedia Commons