Large colorful posters are a uniquely modern phenomenon. They exist to this day because of two important developments from around 1850: the growing need for attention-grabbing commercial advertising and printing presses capable of producing large color images on paper. This confluence of a commercial need and technological innovation made posters ubiquitous on the streets of major European cities, most notably Paris.
Posters are generally characterized by their easy to grasp imagery, scale, and often the inclusion of informational text—the what, who, where, and when required by advertising. The posters included here promote a range of goods as well as cultural events: cigarette rolling papers, books, journals, and prints, as well as theatrical performances and artists’ exhibitions. In the twentieth century, posters also became part of the political dialogue, tools to win the hearts and minds of warring factions.
As ephemera, most posters served their purpose and then were discarded. Visionary collectors recognized some posters as works of art and thankfully preserved them so that this popular art form lives on.
Off the Wall: Posters as Art is organized for the McNay Art Museum by Lyle W. Williams, Curator of Prints and Drawings, Curator of Modern Art; and Jeremiah Teutsch, Matting and Framing Technician.
Funding is most generously provided by The Jane and Arthur Stieren Fund for Exhibitions.
Image: Joan Miró, Poster for an exhibition of the artist’s work, held at the Galerie Maeght, 1948. Lithograph. Collection of the McNay Art Museum, Bequest of Mrs. Jerry Lawson, 1994.142. © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ ADAGP, Paris
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