After hearing from so many guests that they wanted to see more of our permanent collection, we’ve just finished installing a timeline of poster styles near our 24th Street entrance!
Located across from our Billboard Vitrine, the timeline offers visitors a snapshot of poster development and history by highlighting major works from designers over a 100+ year period.
To help whet your appetite, here are some new works you can expect to see on permanent display at Poster House:
Chocolat Klaus, 1903, by Leonetto Cappiello (1875–1942)
Known as the Father of Modern Advertising, Cappiello is responsible for creating jovial compositions offset by flat, saturated backgrounds. While all of his designs are full of movement and color, this poster for a chocolate brand is especially important as it introduced the concept of a mascot to advertising. He did not feel it was necessary to show a product in order to sell it, so instead he gave the world a woman on a red horse—a duo so arresting that people would ask for the chocolate by explaining the image rather than saying its name.
This poster is part of the Belle Époque (1871–1914) period, a golden age in Europe known for its decadence, optimism, and intellectualism. It saw the dawn of the “poster craze,” a proliferation of poster fairs, and, most importantly, the idea that a poster could be more than just an advertisement. While artists showed off a variety of styles, most posters from this period feature rich, primary colors, splashy compositions, and heavy outlines executed through stone lithography. The images are all about exuberance, flirtation, and entertainment.
You can take home your own small version of this image from permanent collection by picking up one of our bags of original house-roasted rosemary cashews at Cafe des Affiches.
Cordial Campari, 1926, by Marcello Nizzoli (1887–1969)
Campari has one of the most varied and lively poster histories of any brand. This design by Nizzoli, however, stands out as especially marvelous for its moody interpretation of Art Deco space and perspective. The viewer sits at an extreme angle both above and in front of the table, almost falling forward as it, in turn, rushes toward the viewer. This tension combined with the moody color palette suggests a possible nod to the popularity of Cubism at the time in addition to Deco drama.
The Art Deco period (1920–39) is defined by its focus on mechanization and uniformity. Lines become sharp, corners turn hard, and colors are imbued with cool, reserved tones that make compositions feel aloof, expensive, and masculine. Extreme perspective enters into posters, with objects towering over the viewer and figures embracing a sense of weight and volume. Typefaces are standardized but still hand-drawn, and an affinity for airbrushing further links the period with commodification and factories.
The Last Flight (Posledni polet), 1929, by Vladimir Stenberg (1899–1982) & Georgii Stenberg (1900–33)
The Stenberg Brothers are the most famous Constructivist poster designers. They are responsible for creating the visual language of the period, pushing posters to a level of creativity and excitement that has never been matched. For film posters like this, artists would rarely get to see the movie before creating the poster, relying entirely on a plot description, film stills, or, sometimes, just a title. In the 1930s, Stalin would put an end to this type of creativity, banning entertainment posters of this style in favor of Socialist Realism.
After World War I, Constructivism (1913–34) arose within the Soviet Union as an aggressive response to the optimism and organic lines of the Belle Époque. Like Art Deco, there was a focus on technology and progress; however, politics pushed artists from the region even further and imbued their designs with a sense of necessary revolution. Posters were meant to jar the viewer out of complacency, presenting harsh diagonals and bold colors through stone lithography.
Stadttheater Basel, Saison 60–61, 1960, by Armin Hofmann (b. 1920)
Hofmann was one of the masters to emerge during this period. Concerned only with direct communication, his posters appear both effortless and precise. Here, he expresses both the acts of listening to and watching an enjoyable performance, the T for theater entering the image as both a reminder of the institution as well as a convenient place to include weekly schedules. This design won the Swiss Poster Award in 1960 for its humor, balance, and effective storytelling.
Also known as the International Typographic Style (1950–80), this period is one of simplicity and precision. Compositions were pared down to the least amount of information necessary to express an idea, shunning illustration and excessive use of color. New developments in printing technology allowed for photomontage (the insertion of photography into large-scale printing) to appear, and new sans-serif typefaces like Univers and Akzidenz Grotesk dominated the scene. Posters were predominantly created via photo-offset printing, a cheaper means of communication developed in the postwar period. Key elements of this movement, like using a grid to map out a composition, are still taught today.
Left: The Chambers Brothers, 1967, by Victor Moscoso (b. 1936)
Right: Jimi Hendrix Experience, 1968, by Rick Griffin (1944–1991) & Victor Moscoso (b. 1936)
Left: The Sound, 1966, by Wes Wilson (b. 1937)
Right: Eric Burdon & the Animals, 1967, by Bonnie MacLean (b. 1939)
Bill Graham helped solidify the visual language of the psychedelic rock scene by commissioning all of the poster artists on display here. These nine designers became the most prominent concert posterists of the era, influencing fashion, art, and culture around the world.
Visit the museum to see the complete set of nine psychedelic posters on permanent display.
Carlos Gardel, 1945, by Eladio Rivadulla Martínez (1923–2011)
Rivadulla is considered one of the masters of Cuban poster design, creating hundreds of images for European and American films imported into Cuba during the 1940s & 50s. After the Revolution, he continued creating posters for political films and ideological campaigns up through his death. Here, he announces a performance by French-Argentinian singer, Carlos Gardel, the most important figure in tango history. He died tragically in a plane crash at the age of 44.
Silkscreen printing is an age-old technique in which color is passed through a tightly-woven screen stenciled with a design. The image transfers in reverse onto a sheet of paper, leaving the unstenciled areas blank. Additional colors can be added via more screens, creating a layered, highly tactile final product. In the 20th century, silkscreen posters are most often associated with protest and revolution as the materials are both cheap and can be quite compact and easy to move or hide. The Mai 68 riots in Paris are best remembered through silkscreen posters, as are images of the Cuban Revolution.
Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk, 1995, by Paula Scher (b. 1948)
This is Paula Scher’s first poster for The Public Theater, created while a partner at Pentagram. The dynamic, nonlinear placement of text combined with a bold cutout figure of one of the performers would go on to redefine theatrical advertising in New York City. While many ads in the city are now printed on vinyl stickers, this design was printed through photo-offset lithography on paper. Scher continues to work with The Public today, continuously editing the brand to reflect the vibrancy of both their programming and the city itself.
Still evolving today, the contemporary poster movement could not be more varied or exciting. With the advent of Photoshop, designers were able to endlessly manipulate imagery and text in a truly limitless digital frontier. So-called rules set up by previous generations were shattered and a pastiche combining all earlier styles with new techniques emerged. Companies no longer approached a single artist, but a branding agency, leaving many posters to be created by committee. Today, many posters are printed as digital signs, leaving the future of the printed poster in question.