Dates and Background

Though for ease I usually refer to these as postcards of the 1920s, they belong more accurately to the period of about 1923-1933, with many of the most stunning examples coming from the later years of that range. This date range is approximate–an inscription or postmark only proves the postcard was made before that date. However, the dates cluster significantly around this decade. At the time of writing, 141 postcards in the collection have dates (written and/or postmarked); 124 of these (88%) are in the range 1924-1933. To a degree, the images can also be dated by fashion, with clothing and hairstyles gradually shifting over the period. The numbering on the postcards is also useful–the biggest publishing house, PC Paris, certainly appears to have numbered its cards chronologically, or very close, and the shift away from the characteristic style of the 1923-1933 period is quite visible after the numbers reach a certain point.

To get a better idea of that style, we can look at the similar types of postcards made before and after. Posed, tinted photo postcards depicting couples were made in France at least from the earliest years of the twentieth century (the period of the international “postcard craze”), and continued through the 1910s.

sip 1033 (187x300) 1910 circe 4677 (190x300) 1915 m 1079 (191x300)
(left: about 1905 (non-split back); middle: postmarked 1910; right: inscribed 1915)

However, colours were much fewer and more muted, and poses were usually very formal.

The postcard type continued through World War One, with most of the male lovers now soldiers:

idea 323 (188x300) lux 187 (195x300) novelta 928 (187x300)
(left: inscribed 1917; middle: undated; right: inscribed 1918)

However, even during the war, colours (and heat) began to intensify:

dix 619 (300x193)
(inscribed 1917)

By the early 1920s, tinting was getting more colourful and fantastical:

A Noyer 3009-1 (192x300) PC Paris 60-2 (189x300)
(left: postmarked 1920; right: postmarked 1921)

Finally, probably around 1922, the colouring was taken in a new direction. The muddy brown tones were dropped in favour of a pure white that highlighted the strongly increased range and intensity of the tinted colours.

Leo 159 (191x300)  SoL 2504 (194x300)
(left: postmarked 1922; right: inscribed 1924)

Around this time, too, dye-toning was introduced. Earlier postcards had sometimes been dyed or applied with an all-over tint:

2831-4 (185x300) npg 3497 (185x300) unknown 01 (189x300)
(left: postmarked 1920; middle: inscribed 1915; right: undated. From a friend’s collection.)

Dye-toning, however, is a completely different process. The earliest dated dye-toned postcard in the collection comes from 1923:

PC Paris 1059 (300x194)
(inscribed 1923)

By 1924, dye-toning was widespread and sometimes paired, already, with tinting:

a noyer 4031 hi def (194x300)
(inscribed 1924)

In the later years of the 1920s the white backdrop fell out of popular use, while the use of the outdoor setting rose (the painted backdrop remained consistently popular).

Around 1930, metallic paper was introduced:

bergeret 276 hi def (192x300) pc paris 3022 (185x300)
(both inscribed 1930)

A post on metallic paper is coming soon; in the meantime, Graphics Atlas has a good demonstration of the paper’s qualities.

The shift away from this postcard type started around 1933. Romantic postcards continued to be produced, and by the many of the same publishing houses. However, the look shifted. Tinting began to be more muted or, often, absent. Backdrops grew vaguer. Less images were taken outdoors than in the later 20s and early 30s. Vignetting was introduced, as was glossy paper (the paper before about 1933 was exclusively matte or metallic). Dye-toning disappeared.

ARS 7526 (200x300) pc paris 3843-1 (197x300) pc paris 3878-2 (191x300) pc paris 3976-4 (189x300) pc paris 4057-3 (190x300)
(second from left: inscribed 1933. All others inscribed 1936)

Though romantic photo postcards continued to be made in France through the 1940s and even 1950s, the day of our type of postcard was over.

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