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Winter fun for everyone in vintage posters of Swiss alpine sports

vintage poster art
vintage poster art

(Left) Vallée de Joux (circa 1930) celebrates the opening of the ski jump from ‘Le Brassus’ in the Swiss Jura. (Right) Les Avants, Funiculaire (1910) depicts a time when bobsledding and sledging were more prevalent and popular than skiing, when even Victorian-era women joined in the fun. Both posters were printed with the labor-and-time intensive technique of stone lithography using natural pigments resulting in excellent depth, detail and brilliant colors that endure today.

Whenever I visit the the Eaux Vives suburb of Geneva, where I lived some eleven years ago, I always take in the display windows of Galerie Un Deux Trois, the only dealers in Switzerland and — after 37 years in business — the oldest in Europe, to trade in the collection, restoration and sale of vintage poster art.

There are over 15,000 posters in the collection of owner and renowned vintage-poster expert Jean-Daniel Clerc, some of which date back to the late 1880s and include gems by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Alphonse Mucha.

vintage posters

Extremely rare lithograph poster from 1924 for the Villars Palace Hotel.

The Galerie has just launched a selling exhibition displaying 25 of its wonderful collection of 260 vintage posters. These are dedicated to winter sports and their associated pastimes, products, and industries (rail and air travel, for example), all of which grew in popularity as the middle classes became more affluent, joining their wealthier counterparts on the slopes.

Vintage posters as historical documents

The posters chronicle the development of wintertime sports, sports facilities, and the advent of luxury hotels and world-famous resorts over a hundred years. They also mirror changing artistic styles (from Art Nouveau to Abstract; from muted tones to eye-popping colour), and printing techniques (stone lithography, offset, heliography, and serigraphy), as well as changes in cultural, social and fashion trends, and rapid product development.

ski posters vintage

Extremely rare Art Deco lithograph poster from 1930 depicting the “Wool of Megève“. Megève is a very popular ski resort in France located between Geneva and Chamonix.

Posters evolved to advertise products that made winter pastimes more pleasurable, including food and drink, glamorous hotels, fashionable and functional clothes and equipment, suntanning lotion, film, and also the new ski lifts and rail links that made winter sports available to the masses for the first time.

Children, snowmen, nature scenes and animals including dogs, foxes, horses and hares also featured prominently in winter-themed vintage posters.

vintage winter sports posters

In Kandersteg (circa 1935) a wise and fit hare guides a snow-covered boy in the direction of the famous ski resort in Canton Bern.

In very many ways they’re historical documents, but at the end of the day I love them because they’re gorgeous to look at, plain and simple, especially those posters printed using the painstaking and expensive process of stone lithography: their definition and color are as bright today as they were on the day they were printed.

The staff of Galerie Un Deux Trois are knowledgeable and friendly, so feel free to stop by to see the exhibit and take in these exceptional posters, as well as leafing through their catalogues of posters on a vast range of subjects. Of course, they’ll be happy to quote you a price (most are listed online and in the catalogues) if one really catches your fancy.

vintage ski poster

Photographic production techniques begin to appear as early as the 1920s, but become more prevalent after 1950. Skiing in Mürren in the Berner Oberland. A large photographic poster by Walter Herdeg & Amstutz.

book cover

Hot off the Press! Galerie 123 recently launched a beautiful hardcover book, Affiches de Sports d’Hiver, featuring 228 vintage posters, most of them from the Galerie’s own collection, and curated by Jean-Daniel Clerc and Jean-Charles Giroud. The special launch price of CHF 95.- (regular price 118.-) is still available so take a look when you stop by the Galerie. This could be the perfect souvenir of a short or long stay in Switzerland.

Galerie Un Deux Trois is located at 4, Rue des Eaux Vives, 1207 Geneva, steps from Place des Eaux-Vives. You can reach them at tel: +41 22 786 1611, email: info@galerie123.com and visit their website here.

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