Poster  

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Loie Fuller poster for the Folies Bergère in the late 19th century.
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Loie Fuller poster for the Folies Bergère in the late 19th century.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A poster is any large piece of printed paper which hangs from a wall or other such surface. Typically posters include both textual and graphic elements, although a poster may be either wholly graphical or wholly textual. Posters are designed to be both eye-catching and convey information. Posters may be used for many purposes, and they are a frequent tool of advertisers (particularly of events, musicians and films), propagandists, protestors and other groups trying to communicate a message. Posters are also used for reproductions of artwork, particularly famous works. Another type of poster are educational posters, which may be about a particular subject for educational purposes. Related to these are academic or conference are generally low-cost compared to original artwork. Many people also collect posters, and some famous posters have themselves become quite valuable. The most conventional size for graphical posters tends to be around 24 by 36 inches, though posters may be nearly any size. Much smaller printed advertisements are typically known as handbills or flyers.

Contents

Poster history

Introduction

According to poster historian Max Gallo, "for over two hundred years, posters have been displayed in public places all over the world. Visually striking, they have been designed to attract the attention of passers-by, making us aware of a political viewpoint, enticing us to attend specific events, or encouraging us to purchase a particular product or service." The modern poster, as we know it, however, dates back to 1870 when the printing industry perfected color lithography and made mass production possible.

"In little more than a hundred years," writes poster expert John Barnicoat, "it has come to be recognized as a vital art form, attracting artists at every level, from painters like Toulouse-Lautrec and Mucha to theatrical and commercial designers." They have ranged in styles from Art Nouveau, Symbolism, Cubism, and Art Deco to the more formal Bauhaus and the often incoherent hippie posters of the 1960s.

Mass production

Posters, in the form of placards and posted bills, have been used since earliest times, primarily for advertising and announcements. Purely textual posters have a long history: they advertised the plays of Shakespeare and made citizens aware of government proclamations for centuries. However, the great revolution in posters was the development of printing techniques that allowed for cheap mass production and printing, including notably the technique lithography which was invented in 1796 by the German Alois Senefelder. The invention of lithography was soon followed by chromolithography, which allowed for mass editions of posters illustrated in vibrant colors to be printed.

Developing art form

By the 1890s, the technique had spread throughout Europe. A number of noted artists created poster art in this period, foremost amongst them Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Jules Chéret. Chéret is considered to be the "father" of advertisement placards. He was a pencil artist and a scene decorator, who founded a small lithography office in Paris in 1866. He used striking characters, contrast and bright colors, and created over 1000 advertisements, primarily for exhibitions, theatres, and products. The industry soon attracted the service of many aspiring painters who needed a source of revenue to support themselves.

Chéret developed a new lithographic technique that suited better the needs of advertisers: he added a lot more colour which, in conjunction with innovative typography, rendered the poster much more expressive. Not surprisingly, Chéret is said to have introduced sex in advertising or, at least, to have exploited the feminine image as an advertising ploy. In contrast with those previously painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, Chéret’s laughing and provocative feminine figures meant a new conception of art as being of service to advertising.

Posters soon transformed the thoroughfares of Paris into the "art galleries of the street." Their commercial success was such that some of the artists were in great demand and theatre stars personally selected their own favorite artist to do the poster for an upcoming performance. The popularity of poster art was such that in 1884 a major exhibition was held in Paris.

Commercial uses

By the 1890s, poster art had widespread usage in other parts of Europe, advertising everything from bicycles to bullfights. By the end of the 19th century, during an era known as the Belle Époque, the standing of the poster as a serious artform was raised even further. Between 1895 and 1900, Jules Chéret created the Maîtres de l'Affiche (Masters of the Poster) series that became not only a commercial success, but is now seen as an important historical publication. Alphonse Mucha and Eugène Grasset were also influential poster designers of this generation, known for their Art Nouveau style and stylized figures, particularly of women. Advertisement posters became a special type of graphic art in the modern age. Poster artists such as Théophile Steinlen, Albert Guillaume, Leonetto Cappiello and others became important figures of their day, their art form transferred to magazines for advertising as well as for social and political commentary.

In the United States, posters did not evolve to the same artistic level. American posters were primarily directed towards basic commercial needs to deliver a written message. However, the advent of the travelling circus brought colorful posters to tell citizens that a carnival was coming to town. But these too were very commercially utilitarian, of average quality, and few saw any real artistic creativity.

Many posters have had great artistic merit and have become extremely collectible. These include the posters advertising World's Fairs and Colonial Exhibitions.

Political uses

Other times of great turmoil also produced great posters. The 1960s saw the rise of pop art and protest movements throughout the West; both made great use of posters. Perhaps the most acclaimed posters were those produced by French students during the so-called "événements" of May 1968.

Notable poster artists


See also





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Poster" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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