Comment: Posters have provided a means of both visual art and communication throughout history


I clipped an interesting article from the St. Louis Post Dispatch a few months ago that referenced the Poster House museum in New York and was shocked to find that it’s the only museum in the United States dedicated to the poster art.

Courtney Lichterman, special editor for The Washington Post, says, “Whether they’re encouraging the purchase of baking powder or starting an uprising, whether they’re hanging in tween bedrooms or on subway walls, whether centered on hustle or travel, posters are a universally used means of communication. Although not always recognized as such, posters – both visually and in terms of content – have been a vital part of all of our lives, regardless of our age or where on the planet we have been.”

Poster House is dedicated to showcasing the impact, culture and design of posters, both as historical documents and methods of contemporary visual communication. Through temporary exhibitions, a growing permanent collection and educational events, Poster House explores the enormous impact of posters on society and culture, and how they have been adapted for contemporary use.

For a poster to succeed, it must communicate by combining the power of images and words. Poster House explores everything from avant-garde design, to changing societal norms, to all the fads and fads of the past 160 years.

An article on the Internet powered by World Press talks about the origin of posters, “Posters have been known to mankind since ancient times. Posters (or rather their precursors, since these images cannot be fully correlated with the concept modern poster) first appeared in ancient Egypt. This was due to the slave system that prevailed at the time, and the fact that sometimes slaves could escape. And this is to capture runaway slaves that special advertisements were used at the time which can, with some stretches, be considered the ancestors of modern posters.”

Also, as culture and art developed, particular posters began to be used in ancient Greece and Rome to inform the public of upcoming plays and interesting trade offers. In a sense, not much has changed since then – posters are still successfully used for these and other purposes.

According to many sources, the modern life of the poster began in the 19th century, when the word poster, translated from German, “das plakat” was born as we know it. The history of the poster begins in 1866 when the French Jules Chéret, graphic designer and scenographer, founded a small lithography in Paris. It was this man who formulated the basic principles of the modern poster.

And of course, many well-known visual artists through the ages are known for their posters such as Toulouse-Lautrec and his Moulin Rouge in 1889 and Alphonse Mucha, a Czech artist living in Paris for his famous Art Nouveau poster.

More modern artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein and Keith Haring were known to create their own posters to announce the opening of their own art exhibitions. These posters used to be very cheap and often even free and have now gone vintage and can be quite expensive.

Talking about the cost of posters, one can furnish the walls of his house with posters of all sizes and values. I was amazed when visiting a friend who collected early 18th century French posters. She told me that before meeting her husband she had collected copies of these posters and discovered that he was collecting the real things and now their value has increased even more.

There are vintage movie posters, concert posters, political posters, propaganda posters that cost thousands of dollars. I just looked online at an all-time high of a bunch of 15 movie posters that are worth $3 million.

There’s no end to posters, but I like what Gina Grafos, director of visual and literary infrastructure at the Kranzberg Arts Foundation had to say: “Posters are our first point of access to self-expression and to become art collectors. I think of the first concert or image of a teenager “piece” of a magazine that I wisely chose as a child to encompass my personal wall space. It’s preservation, our first choice (not organizing cans in a pantry as the term is sometimes used today). Whether in multitudes to reach the masses or multi-layered to show the accumulation of commercialized propaganda, posters become the currency of communication and leave a visual impact, even if only a tiny pinhole or staple remains. broken in a lamppost.”

I go back to my computer to go back in time and reminisce by looking at posters of relevant times in my life – most of the time those times will involve movies and special cultural events.

Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for over forty years on numerous arts-related councils.