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What is Vintage Art?

Vintage items typically exhibit the best of certain qualities of a time period or era. It is a term that is often thrown around and often used incorrectly. Some people like to use vintage as a term for something that is not very old at all, such as records, or video cassettes. It is thought that items less than 20 years old are not classified as vintage. With vintage items you should be able to look at them and recognize the year or era quickly to which it is associated.

Vintage Advertisements

Print advertising became a staple around the world starting in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the development of mass production. Advertisements were designed (as they are today) to persuade potential customers to purchase a brand, product or service. Much of the vintage advertisements focused on women as they were responsible for most of the purchasing for the household. Among the most commonly seen advertisements were for body soaps, coffees, detergents, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

Vintage Coca-Cola Advertisements

Some of the most classic and most easily recognizable vintage advertisements are Coca-Cola advertisements. The first advertisement for the beverage ran on May 29, 1886 in the Atlanta Journal. Advertising was a hugely important factor in the success of Coca-Cola, luckily for John Pemberton (the creator of the soft drink), print advertisement was a growing trend with the American economy in the lat 19th century.

Off to a Fresh Start Coca-Cola Cola Girl in Shorts

Vintage Pears Soap Advertisements

One of the most popular products came from London, England. Pears Soap was created by Andrew Pears in 1789 and was the first transparent soap. Pears Soap holds the honor of being the first registered brand and is the world's oldest continually existing brand. Andrew Pears added an aroma to his soap to created greater appeal and in 1838 his grandson Francis Pears joined the business and created the company A. & F. Pears Ltd. Pears Soap was immensely famous for their marketing and print advertising starting in the 19th century. Business partner and grandson of Francis, Thomas J. Barratt, is often referred to as the father of modern advertising. Barratt changed the course of advertising history by using many nontraditional ways of advertising as well as upping the ante on much of the print advertisements distributed for the soap. It was Barratt who was the mastermind behind one of the most famous and (to this day) most recognized Pears advertisement campaigns with "Bubbles" as seen below.

Pears Soap

Retro Art Vs. Vintage Art

The two terms are often interchanged in modern language; however there are some distinct and important differences between them. Here we will wade through the confusion and hopefully enlighten you with the proper usage of each term.

Retro Art

Let's start with the term retro. Retro derives from the Latin meaning "backwards" or "in past times". The definition of retro that is most closely associated with past trends of art and fashion derives from the French term retrospectif, which was abbreviated to simply retro. The term retro became popular in the 1970's to describe French fashion, and was used in French novels and film. The word retro, shortly thereafter made its way across to America and into American fashion and culture.

Retro Art refers to art that just a little bit quirky. Think kitsch, theatrical and eccentric. Retro is also something that is a bit more modern than something that is defined as vintage. Retro focuses on items dated between roughly the 1950's to the 1980's

Take for example these images:
Eight O'Clock Coffee, 1935 Cunard Line - Canada

Vintage Art

Vintage is taken from the world of winemaking and refers to the year in which the wine was "laid down" or put into wooden casks. What you should take from this origin is vintage art and overall vintage items should be associated with a specific year.

Vintage focuses on time periods of the early 1900's until roughly the 1940's. When thinking of vintage art, great examples are those of commercial print advertisements. Take for example these vintage advertisements:

Savon Palmolive Pates Baroni, 1921

Understanding old-looking art from Vintage Art

It is important to remember that not all old-looking art is vintage art. There are many images that are created today that are meant to look like vintage art but simply are not vintage or retro in the correct sense. Take into account these images seen below, which were created to have a vintage feel, but are not 'authentic' vintage art prints.

Vintage Map of London Vintage Collage IV

Faux Vintage Art and Faux Retro Art

Today there are many websites, advertisements and art pieces made to look retro or vintage. Some advertisements and art pieces look quite authentic but a closer look will reveal that they are not. There is nothing wrong with the faux vintage and faux retro items created today, however it is important to acknowledge faux from real, especially if you are decorating a room, restaurant or other establishment with 'authentic' vintage or retro art.

Here are some examples of modern day images of vintage creations: Artist Andrea Laliberte is a young Canadian artist known for her vintage style.

Teatro Three Lab Bakery

American artist Catherine Jones is also well known for her many beautiful, but faux vintage art prints.

Malt Shop III All Nite Diner

Joyce Ballantyne may not be a household name, but you are familiar with her work, no doubt. She is most famous for creating the Coopertone girl advertisement in the 1950's. Ballantyne is also very famous for her Pin-Up girls, which became a hit in 1954.

Pin-Up Girl in Pink A Stool Pigeon

Vintage Art's Role in Today's Society

Vintage art is classic in design and very much still desired in today's world. Vintage is often looked upon as something good from the past, something longed for, and something nostalgic. Vintage art plays many roles in today's society. Many famous vintage pieces can be seen in feature films and television shows as home, office, or restaurant decor, like the well known Chat Noir advertisement. Chat Noir is so famous that there are even restaurants in places like New York City named after it.

Tournee Du Chat Noir (Yellow Background)

They say imitation is the best form of flattery. Vintage art has its fair share of imitation created in today's society. Take for example some of these humorous posters.

Bull Terrier Brand Bitch Whine

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