A rich and beautifully printed proof impression, printed prior to the addition of the advertising text to the panel below the image, from the edition of c. 100, numbered “No. 71 in ink lower left. Printed by O. de Rycker Mendel, Brussels. Hand-signed in ink with the artist’s paraph in the margin lower right, also signed and dated on the stone lower right Privat Livemont - 1900 Brux. By 1898, The poster magazine was calling Privat Livemont “The uncontested master of Belgian posterists.” He had dazzled the poster world with delicately drawn design which, while conceived somewhat differently from Mucha’s, created the same final effect of celebrating feminine pulchritude in the service of commercial enterprise. Livemont could not have been a Mucha disciple for the simple reason that he started out earlier, but had had the same penchant for the idealized female, the same meticulous draftsmanship, and the same mystery of the principles of decorative style. Livemont came to posters by accident, via interior design. After studying it and embarking on it as a career first in his home town of Schaerbeek in Belgium, and then in Paris, where he worked on decor for the Comédie Française, among others. He returned home where, on a whim, he entered a contest for a poster for the local art appreciation society. To his own surprise, he won: this got him interested in lithography, and before long, he had his own studio in Brussels. Eventually, he abandoned the field to devote himself to painting in oils; but for few years that he stayed with posters, he produced a number of designs of pristine beauty, nearly always exalting lovely young ladies. “Tropon Chocolat-Cocoa” is a serene, reassuring scene, with cheruby children and mother, awaiting the taste of Tropon cocoa. The only place that we’ve been able to locate a reference to this poster is on Page 144 of the December 1900 issue of The Poster, where it is illustrated, also without text, but identified. Edgar Wenlock, who provides an essay on Belgian posteriests in that issue, calls this a “window bill” and although he confesses to not being an admirer of Livemont- or Mucha “upon whom he has very obviously found his style” -he admits that “both of these artists have invented very beautiful things, but it seems to me that internal decoration, rather than street advertisement, is the field in which their talent would have its fullest scope” and he goes on to nonetheless praise Livemont as superior to his mentor, for he concludes that “his work is bolder and his colour contrasts more effective” (p. 144).
This work is part of a carefully curated selection by noted fine art expert Jennifer McCloskey, who was formerly affiliated with Doyle Gallery in New York and is now based in San Francisco.