Art posters at the outset of this article could be said to fall into two distinct categories. On the one hand there are the copies of actual paintings, prints and other such pieces of art now made possible through modern printing methods and available at such places as Barewalls.com. Art.com. These are as varied in style as their are art styles and range from the abstract art of Kandinsky to the pop arr of Andy Warhol to renaisance art of Michelangelo.
Advertisng into Art?
On the other hand there are the early advertising posters, which many considered pieces of fine art, and were increasingly seen everywhere in Paris in the late 1800’s.For more information, visit their website at plakater.
These early fine art posters were drawn and painted by by bona fide artists such as Jules Cheret and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and then reproduced using lithographic printing methods.
Although Jules Cheret , the father of the modern poster, because of his development in lithographic techniques, had been producing advertising art posters since 1867, this fine art form was not widely recognised as such until 1891. The poster responsible for this change in attitude was Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s advertisement for the Moulin Rouge in Paris. The next influencial art poster artist on the scene was a Czech by the name of Alphonse Mucha In 1894 he produced a poster of actress Sarah Bernhardt that was the first of a genre which became known as Art Nouveau. It soon spread across the atlantic to the United States and was made popular there by Will Bradley, and his posters for the Chap-Book magazine in 1894-95. Likewise it was Dudley Hardy who brought the gaiety and liveliness of the Belle Epoch to London’s theatre world with posters like “Gaiety Girl”.
Other notable artists of the genre included Gustav Klimt, Charles Mackintosh, Theophile Alexandre Steinlen Aubrey Beardsley, Georges De Feure, Aristide Maillol, Louis Comfort Tiffany and Franz-von Stuck. Art Nouveau continued into the early 20th century despite the death of Toulouse-Lautrec in 1901 and Mucha and Cheret’s move into painting. Nevertheless, out of the influence of the style and its artists came a young Italian named Leonetto Cappiello. He arrived in Paris in 1898, and dominated the scene until the advent of Art Deco in 1923 with his own style that developed into the first ever example of brand marketing. Consequently, he is now regarded as the father of modern brand marketing.
His style concentrated on creating a single simple image to capture the attention of an audience distracted by a sea of other distractions on the busy boulevards of Paris. The most often cited example is the 1906 ‘Maurin Quina’ poster advertising absinthe which clearly focusses the main attention on the name. The year 1905 saw the introduction of another style called Plakatstil or Poster Style as a result of the winning poster in a poster competition sponsored by the German match company, Preister. The designer was Lucian Bernhard who similar to Cappiello concentrated on a single simple image of the product, with the name of the manufacturer in big bold letters. In this case the image was two large matches and the name of manufacturer which was naturally Preister.
After World War One and the utilisation of the poster for propaganda, new art movements such as Cubism, Futurism, Dada and Expressionism came to the fore. Along with other important influences such as Bauhaus, the Vienna Secession and de Stijl they were instrumental in the evolution of an art poster style now known as Art Deco. Widely regarded as starting in 1923 with Adolphe-Mouron Cassandre’s poster ‘Au Boucheron’ (The Woodcutter), which was a Paris furniture store, the term ‘Art Deco’ was derived from the Paris “Decorative Arts” Exposition which took place two years later.
Cassandre followed Au Boucheron with numerous posters many of them considered classics of the genre. These include three ocean liner posters of the Normandie, Statendam and Atlantique which became icons of the Industrial Age. During this industrial period when the machine was “King” it was perhaps only to be expected that an art movement such as Art Deco would evolve. An art movement that could more than adequately express the primary themes of style, power and speed. As well as Cassandre other notable designers and illustrators of art posters in this period were Edward McKnight Kauffer, Charles Loupot, WH Gispen, Willem Ten Broek, Georges Lepape, Jean Dupas, Pierre Fix-Masseau, Georges De Feures, Paul Colin, Michael Kungl, and Leslie Ragan.
From Fine Art to Graphic Design
By the time of World War Two photo-offset printing was replacing lithographic printing. Subsequently poster and graphic art, long regarded as fine art, was giving way to graphic design. Moreover, the relatively new media of radio and television was increasingly being used for advertising. Nevertheless, posters continued to be used as an important advertising tool and as an inexpensive way of making artistic and social statements.
Original Vintage Art Posters
Getting your hands on original art posters is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive. More and more they are being seen as the true pieces of art they really are. With prices often in the tens of thousands and sometimes in the hundreds of thousands of dollars perhaps it’s no wonder that vintage art posters are rightly recognised as investment opportunities.