Around this time of year, nostalgic, century old illustrations tend to provide us with a sense of fuzzy festive warmth. 

A prime example of this would be Raymond Briggs’ 1978 picture book The Snowman and, perhaps more notably, the 1982 British animated television film and symphonic poem which followed. Even for the time, these illustrations felt nostalgic as they mimicked the lithographic style similar to Lucien Boucher’s, popular in 1920s France. 

Originally published alongside surreal prose poems by Pierre Mac Orlan, Boucher’s lithographs of Parisian shop fronts are rare and sought after. 

This year sees a new version, published by The Mainstone Press, which brings together 37 of the artist’s lithographs, which are no less vibrant or amusing now than they were almost 100 years ago.

Both childish yet adult and complex, Boucher’s lithographs capture a bygone era in Paris’ visual culture, celebrating the architecture, typography, arcades and window displays that characterised the city in the 1920s. This was truly the beginning of the modern lifestyle we have all become accustomed too and sat centre stage in much surrealist French literature during the celebrated era. 

Boucher imbued the works with huge amounts of charm, adding just enough detail to express the idiosyncrasies of each store – from the blond-wigged mannequin of the backstreet hairdresser, to the skinny dog eyeing up the offal in the tripe shop.

Some illustrations evoke even a modern Paris seeing it is a city that thrives on its embracing of tradition- the boulangerie and greengrocer lithographs come to mind. Other storefronts such as the corset store or offal shop are less familiar but evoke another time and lifestyle with charm. 

Pierre Mac Orlan’s original prose poems are also reproduced and translated at the end of the book, along with photographs of real-life shopfronts, a surrealist’s guide to Paris written by art historian James Russell, and more information on Boucher’s career – which included making work for advertising and posters.

A limited-edition of 500 books by The Mainstone Press;

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