Calendrier de La Belle Jardinière. Les Mois. Juillet (Calendar for La Belle Jardinière. The Months. July), 1896
In 1896, Eugène Grasset was commissioned by the La Belle Jardinière clothing boutique to produce a calendar. He showed the original watercolours at the Société nationale des beaux-arts salon. He had previously produced a calendar for the Au Bon Marché department store in 1886 and was hired again by La Belle Jardinière in 1904, producing a series of illustrations on the theme of the seasons. The calendars, given to customers at the checkout, were the perfect medium for his ideal of bringing art to the masses.
Grasset firmly believed that modernity should be solidly rooted in the art of the past while ‘drawing new strength from nature’. The illustrations for the 1896 calendar combined the longstanding technique of woodblock engraving and the new technology of chromotypography. Each print connected linear calendar time and the cyclical pattern of the seasons; each month’s flower was associated with a sign of the zodiac. The female figures drew on both photographic models and allegories from sixteenth- (Cesare Ripa) and eighteenth-century (Gravelot and Cochin) Iconologies.
Grasset’s figures, designed to advertise women’s clothing, are models of elegance. The woman watering flowers in July wears a flared skirt and leg of mutton sleeves, the height of fashion in the 1890s. The blue cotton fabric is decorated with a pattern inspired by the Leo star sign and worn with a white collar, yellow wrap, and little red shoes.
Catherine Lepdor (ed.), Eugène Grasset. L’art et l’ornement, exh. cat. Lausanne, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Milan, 5 Continents Editions, 2011.
Anne Murray-Robertson, Grasset: une certaine image de la femme, exh. cat. Gingins, Fondation Neumann, Milan, Skira, 1999.