The Art of Label Design at Chateau Mouton Rothschild

The Art of Label Design at Chateau Mouton Rothschild

Since 1945, a great artist has been chosen each year to illustrate the label of the new vintage of Chateau Mouton Rothschild. The legendary chateau thus offers through its bottles not only one of the most prized wines of Bordeaux, but also a collection that, from year to year, brings together the most famous names in contemporary art.

A Legacy of Art in Label Design

To celebrate the first vintage bottled at the chateau in 1924, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, father of Baroness Philippine, asked the famous poster artist Jean Carlu to create the very first label for Mouton Rothschild.

This idea, however, would not be repeated until 1945, when the label of the new vintage was designed by a great contemporary painter. In that year, the Baron Philippe decided to integrate a “V” as a symbol for the “victory of peace,” and the label was drawn by the young painter Philippe Jullian. And so, the famous tradition was born. Each year the prestigious chateau has invited a famous artist to grace the label of its great wine with a unique design. In the beginning, Baron Philippe chose artists from among his personal friends: Jean Hugo, Léonor Fini, Jean Cocteau… In 1955, Georges Braque agreed to dress the estate’s newest vintage. Soon after, he was joined by some of the greatest artists of the time: DaliCaesar, Miro, Chagall, Picasso, Warhol, Soulages, Bacon, Balthus... Through the masterpieces of these great artistic minds, Mouton Rothschild has gradually expanded, year by year, its exciting and unique collection. In 1981 the late Baroness Philippine sent the collection on a worldwide tour, as a traveling exhibition named “Mouton Rothschild, L’Art and L’Etiquette.” Having spent time on display at many great museums around the world, the exhibition is now housed at the chateau itself, in the beautiful rooms commissioned by Baroness Philippine in 2013, located between the vat and the Museum of Wine and Art.

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© Chateau Mouton Rothschild

© Chateau Mouton Rothschild

© Chateau Mouton Rothschild

More than just an expression of each artist’s style, the magnificent labels gracing the bottles of Mouton Rotschild also often serve as the representation of the character of each vintage or the perception of the chateau’s wines by the artist. French painter and sculptor Guy de Rougemont, for example, expressed the journey of the wine from green to red grape, then from the bright, sunny vineyard into the dark cellars as a serpentine lines with several different colors, shadows and light. Meanwhile, the great Italian sculptor Giuseppe Penone evokes in his drawing the “green thumb” of the vine grower as a living expansion of the vine itself. On the label of the 2002 vintage, Ilya Kabakov – one of the masters of Russian contemporary art – chose to invite tasters of the wine into a dreamy allegory. Behind the glass of the bottle, Kabakov reveals an infinity myriad of wings spinning in unison, leading the person tasting the wine into a joyous flight into ultimate bliss. This piece represents the artist’s belief in the tru magic behind a great wine. And to illustrate the legendary 100-point vintage 1982, the famous film director and talented painter John Huston chose the symbolic theme of a ram seized in a Dionysian trance of euphoria between its two partners, the sun and the vine. This label was created as a tribute to the artist’s friend Baron Philippe for his 6th harvest at Mouton. It would be one the Huston’s last works.

Gerhard Richter, Inventor of Pictorial Forms and Techniques

© Konstanze Ell - Studio Richter

© Konstanze Ell – Studio Richter

This year, the illustration gracing the label of the new vintage was entrusted to German artists Gerhard Richter. Richter has earned a title as a great innovator of pictorial forms and techniques. Recognized throughout the world, he bases his work on the dialectical relationship between painting and photography, between representation and abstraction. This very special work, commissioned by the chateau, is the result of a process at once random and carefully prepared, which the artist has named “Flux.” The idea is to fix moving colors in a photograph at just the right moment of their composition, echoing the way in which a harmonious blend is created from wines at the perfect moment of expression. The image, like the wine it illustrates, is meant to depict a living creation, its balance and complexity.

Born in 1932, Richter graduated from Dresden Art Academy in 1951, and began working as a painter of murals in the German Democratic Republic. On a trip to the West, he discovered the freedom enjoyed by artists, which prompted him in 1961 to take refuge in Düsseldorf. Since 1983, he has resided and worked in the city of Cologne. His work, which is simultaneously unique, complex and accessible to all, earned him international recognition quite early in his career. Richter is a frequent guest at major institutions, including the Pompidou Center, the MoMA in New York City, the Fondation Beyeler in Basel and the Albertinum of Dresden, where three rooms are dedicated to his work. The artist has received several honors of great prestige, including the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale and the Praemium Imperiale in Japan.

The work of Gerhard Richter revolves around the discussion between painting and photography. Famous for his “photo-paintings” of portraits, still-lifes and landscapes graced with his signature blur, he is also a great master of abstract art, playing with the wide range of possibilities offered by photography. Richter is perhaps best known for having developed in 2011 a technique for painting under glass in a way that is both random and controlled. He has termed this signature technique “Flux.” His masterpieces are created by spreading enamel paint over a Plexiglass plate, and then pressing on a glass plate to produce remarkable compositions of shape and color. After photographing the fluctuating colors, he fixes the two plates upon one another. This is the same technique he used to create the 2015 Chateau Mouton Rothschild label.

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