The Artful Appeal of Poster Collecting

The Artful Appeal of Poster Collecting

Since the late 1880s, posters have been capturing the eye of passersby with colourful designs and iconic images. A blend of art, graphic design and typography, posters became the mainstream medium for mass communication in an age of advertising. From movie and theatre posters to travel, products and propaganda, posters reflect historical times, cultural references, and artistic expression making them highly collectable the world over.

Jules Cheret 1880s

One of the most recognizable posters from that era is the Moulin Rouge created by French artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. But posters came into fashion several years before his time, around 1880, with the artist and inventor of the 3-stone lithograph process, Jules Cheret. His 3-stone process brought an intensity of colour and dimension to the printed medium at a fraction of the cost. This caught the eye of the world of commerce and created a boom in advertising posters. Over the next 30 years, Cheret would go on to create more than 1000 posters.

This marriage between art and commerce piqued the interest of other artists. Posters as a means of mass communication were a great way to get known as an artist, not to mention a good source of revenue. In 1891, Toulouse-Lautrec raised the bar on poster design with his artistic impressions advertising Parisien life. These designs became hot property and people would rip them off the walls of the city, just to get their hands on one.

Poster dealers, poster magazines, and poster exhibitions started cropping up all over the world as this poster craze took hold. Now everyone could own a piece of high art just for a few dollars.

Alphonse Mucha 1894

Many other artists like Alphonse Mucha joined the poster revolution. His posters are an iconic reminder of the Art Nouveau movement. His designs and clever use of typography caught on with mainstream media and design, thanks to his muse and patron Sarah Bernhardt, who hired Mucha to design a series of posters for her theatre works. Mucha went onto to design Bernhardt’s stage costumes and jewellery as well.c

Leonetto Cappiello 1898

By the end of the century, the ornate floral designs of Mucha gave way to a more modern look when Leonetto Cappiello, an Italian caricaturist, decided to get in the game of poster art in 1898. His advertising posters displayed bold colours, clean lines, and magnified imagery often humorous in nature. He had a particular skill in defining a brand’s identity and has been credited with starting a new era of advertising and branding.

His influence on poster design remained strong for several decades and continued to inspire other artists and poster designers across the globe. It wasn’t until the industrial age and the Art Deco movement that this universal poster preference changed.

A.M. Cassandre 1923

When A.M. Cassandre arrived on the scene with his first Art Deco poster in 1923 for Au Bucheron furniture store, there was a shift in style and perspective. The playful images and soft palette of Cappiello were replaced by powerful imagery and strong geometric designs influenced by Cubism and Realism, using an airbrush technique. This was the age of the machine. Instead of entertaining the viewer, Cassandre’s posters were designed to stimulate and provoke. He fully embraced the poster medium by experimenting with typography and designing his own fonts and typefaces. Many of his posters play with typography to convey meaning, like his Dubonnet Series.

Wartime posters

Into the 1940s, the invention of TV took some of the charm out of posters for the advertising industry. During this time, posters became more military in nature and were used to recruit soldiers, educate the masses and of course, spread propaganda. Who can forget Rosie the Riveter by J. Howard Miller or Uncle Sam by James Montgomery Flagg?

At this time, a new printing process was invented using photo offset. This allowed for greater depth of colour and the use of actual photography in the poster design.

Interested in more wartime posters? Discover a piece of history in our wartime art poster collection!

International Typographic Style

As times started to prosper again after WWII, advertisers turned to posters as a way to market their new products. It was an age of consumerism and the invention of modern conveniences. Poster design fell into two categories: business to business, and business to consumer. The more corporate posters followed the International Typographic Style invented by the Swiss. It focused on simple structured imagery of a geometric order, like the creations of Erik Nitsche.

Mid-Century Modern and Bauhaus Style

The consumer style appealed to a wider audience and poster designs were more playful and lighthearted. Cartoon imagery and primary colours dominated this style and was adopted by many poster artists like Herbert Lupin, Donald Brun, Paul Rand, Raymond Savignac, David Klein, and Stan Galli.

It was the 50s and graphic design was now a practice of order and rules. Art took a backdrop in the poster’s design and typography, layout, and technique took over. Mid-Century Modern was in style and Bauhaus was leading the way in design.

Milton Glaser 1966

By the mid-1960s, psychedelia was in full swing and posters were awash with explosive colours, dynamic imagery, and a sense of freedom. Breaking free from the structure of the 50s poster style, this era used Surrealism, Pop Art, and Expressionism to get their message across.

Milton Glaser is perhaps one of the most iconic poster artists of this time. His Bob Dylan poster album insert captures this design era perfectly with its stark contrast between the dark face and colourful hair that looks like it’s just about to spring out of the frame. This style set in motion a whole new movement of poster art in an age of creative expression and youthful rebellion.

Richard Avedon 1967

Richard Avedon is another big figure of this poster Pop-Art era. He created movement in his designs by using offset images and contrasting colours that seem to pulsate when you stare at them for too long. His legendary print of John Lennon expresses a chaotic world on the brink of a revolution.

Wolfgang Weingart 1984

As the psychedelic revolution was happening on American shores, the Swiss Typographic Style was continuing to spread across Europe and endure the postmodern era. By the 1970s this orderly yet elegant style enjoyed a resurgence for a short while, until an artist by the name of Wolfgang Weingart from Basel decided to put his own spin on it.

Fusing several styles together to create posters of many layers, Weingart’s vision gave way to a style that looked like a montage of ordered chaos using realism, whimsy, and typography. His designs led to new innovations in computer graphics and typography design.

An Artful Piece of History

Over the next few decades as computer technology advanced, poster art has become evermore vivid and intense. This century, digital billboards have taken the place of most printed posters, but that just makes these works of art even more collectable.

You can find several poster auctions across the Internet and certain auction houses like Julien’s Auctions and Profiles in History. You can also find many of these posters in museums across the world like the Poster Museum in Warsaw, Poland, and the House in New York City.

Posters blend design, advertising, typography, and art into one beautiful piece of history – well worth collecting.

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