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A poster is any piece of printed paper designed to be attached to a wall or vertical surface. Typically posters include both textual and graphic elements, although a poster may be either wholly graphical or wholly text. Posters are designed to be both eye-catching and informative. Posters may be used for many purposes. 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, and are generally low-cost compared to original artwork.
According to French 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 colour 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 colours to be printed.Developing art form
By the 1890s, the technique had spread throughout Europe. A number of noted French artists created poster art in this period, foremost amongst them Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Jules Chéret, Eugène Grasset, Adolphe Willette, Pierre Bonnard, Louis Anguetin, Georges de Feure and Henri Gabriel Ibels. 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 colours, 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 usesLithograph poster for Ranch 10, a Western-themed play by Harry Meredith which opened in New York City in August 1882
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, Henri Thiriet 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 colourful 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 w 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. During the 1968 Paris student riots and for years to come, Jim Fitzpatrick's stylized poster of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara (based on the photo Guerrillero Heroico), also became a common youthful symbol of rebellion.Poster printing
Many printing techniques are used to produce posters. While most posters are mass-produced, posters may also be printed by hand or in limited editions. Most posters are printed on one side and left blank on the back, the better for affixing to a wall or other surface. Pin-up sized posters are usually printed on A3 Standard Silk paper in full colour. Upon purchase, most commercially available posters are often rolled up into a cylindrical tube to allow for damage-free transportation. Rolled-up posters can then be flattened under pressure for several hours to regain their original form.
It is possible to use poster creation software to print large posters on standard home or office printers.Types of posters
Many posters, particularly early posters, were used for advertising products. Posters continue to be used for this purpose, with posters advertising films, music (both concerts and recorded albums), comic books, and travel destinations being particularly notable examples.Propaganda and political postersGerman propaganda poster, 1921
During the First and Second World Wars, recruiting posters became extremely common, and many of them have persisted in the national consciousness, such as the "Lord Kitchener Wants You" posters from the United Kingdom, the "Uncle Sam wants you" posters from the United States, or the "Loose Lips Sink Ships" posters that warned of foreign spies. Also in Canada, they were widespread.
Posters during wartime were also used for propaganda purposes, persuasion, and motivation, such as the famous Rosie the Riveter posters which exhorted women workers to work in factories during World War II. The Soviet Union also produced a plethora of propaganda posters, some of which became iconic representations of the Great Patriotic War. During the democratic revolutions of 1989 in Central and Eastern Europe the poster was very important weapon in the hand of the opposition. Brave printed and hand-made political posters appeared on the Berlin Wall, on the statue of St. Wenseslas in Prague and around the unmarked grave of Imre Nagy in Budapest and the role of them was indispensable for the democratic change. An example of an influential political poster is Shepard Fairey's Barack Obama "HOPE" poster.Movie posters Main article: Film poster
The film industry quickly discovered that vibrantly coloured posters were an easy way to sell their pictures. Today, posters are produced for most major films, and the collecting of movie posters has become a major hobby. The record price for a poster was set on November 15, 2005 when US$690,000 was paid for a poster of Fritz Lang's 1927 film Metropolis from the Reel Poster Gallery in London. Other early horror and science fiction posters are known to bring tremendous prices as well, with an example from The Mummy realizing $452,000 in a 1997 Sotheby's auction, and posters from both The Black Cat and Bride of Frankenstein selling for $334,600 in various Heritage Auctions. The 1931 Frankenstein 6-sheet poster, of which only 1 copy is known to exist, is considered to be the most valuable film poster in the world..Travel posters
Poster advertising or proposing a travel destination, or simply artistically articulating a place have been made. An example is the Beach Town Posters series, a collection of Art Deco travel posters of American beach resorts that refer to the advertising style of the 1920s and 1930s. A site dedicated to modern Travel Posters is SevenDays-in: photographers of the world are selected to sell on line their photos.Railway posters
In the early days of steam railways in Britain, the various rail companies advertised their routes and services on simple printed sheets. By the 1850s, with increasing competition and improvements in printing technology, pictorial designs were being incorporated in their advertising posters. The use of graphic artists began to influence the design of the pictorial poster. In 1905, the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) commissioned Norman Wilkinson to produce artwork for a new landscape poster, advertising their rail/steam packet link to Ireland. In 1908, for the Great Northern Railway (GNR), John Hassall produced the famous image of the "Jolly Fisherman" with the "Skegness is so Bracing" slogan. The development of this commercial art form throughout the first half of the 20th century reflected the changes in British society, along with the changing styles of art, architecture and fashion as well as changing patterns of holidaymaking.Event postersEvent poster, 2005An example of a concert poster, 2001Advertising with posters can be a "poor mans advertising media" and sometimes, it seems any surface is suitable.
Posters advertising events have become common. Any sort of public event, from a rally to a play, may be advertised with posters; a few types of events have become notable for their poster advertisements.Boxing posters
Boxing Posters were used in and around the actual venue to advertise the forthcoming fight, date, ticket prices, and usually consisted of pictures of each boxer. Boxing Posters vary in size and vibrancy, but are not usually smaller than 18x22 inches. In the early days, few boxing posters survived the actual event and have thus become a collectible.Concert posters
Many concerts, particularly rock concerts, have custom-designed posters that are used for advertisement of the event. These often become collectors items as well.Band/music posters
Posters that showcase a person's favorite artist or music group are popular in teenagers' bedrooms, as well as in college dorm rooms and apartments. Many posters have pictures of popular rock bands and artists.Blacklight poster Main article: Blacklight poster
Blacklight posters are designed to have a special effect under a blacklight (ultraviolet light).Pin-up posters
Pinup posters, "pinups," or cheesecake posters are pictures of attractive women designed to be displayed, first coming to popularity in the 1920s. The popularity of sexy pin-up girl posters has been erratic in recent decades. Pin-ups such as Betty Grable and Jane Russell were highly popular with soldiers during World War II but much less so during the Vietnam War. The late 1970s and into the beginning of the 1980s were boom years for large posters of television actresses, especially Farrah Fawcett and Cheryl Tiegs.Affirmation postersAn example of an affirmation posterMain article: Affirmation posters
This refers to decorative posters that are meant to be motivational and inspirational. One popular series has a black background, a scene from nature, and a word such as "Leadership" or "Opportunity." Another version (usually framed and matted) uses a two-image hologram which changes as the viewer walks past.Fanposter
The goal of creating a Fanposter is to show all or a large portion of devoted fans on one poster which will be presented and can be seen in a place where many other fans or members have access (hallway of a club house, fanzine, fan webpage, public place).Publications Book posters
Book text on poster is a type of poster design where the entire text of a book (usually a novel) is printed in legible form. This unique and modern design style is commonly characterized by a wall of text with a depiction of an important element of the book by use of negative space, which in this case is also known as white space.Comic book posters
The resurgence of comic book popularity in the 1960s led to the mass production of comic book posters in the 1970s and onward. These posters typically feature popular characters in a variety of action poses. The fact that comic books are a niche market means that a given poster usually has a smaller printing run than other genres of poster. Therefore, older posters may be quite sought after by collectors. Promotional posters are usually distributed folded, whereas retail posters intended for home decoration are rolled.Educational postersA poster session at the EPFL Research posters and "poster sessions" Main article: Poster session
Posters are used in academia to promote and explain research work. They are typically shown during conferences, either as a complement to a talk or scientific paper, or as a publication. They are of lesser importance than actual articles, but they can be a good introduction to a new piece of research before the paper is published. Poster presentations are often not peer-reviewed, but can instead be submitted, meaning that as many as can fit will be accepted.Classroom posters
Posters are a standard feature of classrooms worldwide. A typical school in North America will display a variety, including: advertising tie-ins (e.g. an historical movie relevant to a current topic of study); alphabet and grammar; numeracy and scientific tables; safety and other instructions; artwork and displays by the students.Vintage poster restoration/conservation
The backing of posters with fabric dates back to 19th century France, where posters were occasionally glued to linen for reinforcement. This provided some protection, but with the passage of time the paper continued to become brittle and was frequently torn by stress. Modern backing techniques have eliminated this problem by using an acid free paper between the poster and the fabric. The adhesive used is wheat paste treated to inhibit mold growth.
The principal reason to fabric-back a poster is to provide support for the paper. It also enables the conservator to flatten the folds and to more easily make repairs. Fabric backing also eliminates the waviness that can occur when the poster is framed.
Reversibility is a concept that is important in all conservation work, because today's curators and collectors are only temporary custodians of a cultural object (the poster) that will have continuing and timeless interest for future collectors. We strive to make certain that materials and techniques that are applied to the poster are not harmful over time and are reversible to bring it back to the state in which we found it.
Restoration can dramatically improve the appearance of a poster. Damage caused by clear adhesive tape, residual stains, water marks and dirt can be easily repaired; combining this with the replacement of lost paper can bring the poster back to virtually its original state.Historic poster artists
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Vin Mariani, Jules Cheret's 1894 poster for the digestif and tonic wine fortified by coca
Official poster for the Exposition Universelle of 1905 in Liège
A digital poster illustrating twelve different species of flowers
A World War II propaganda poster with the text "Let's catch him with his Panzers down!"
Jack the Ripper wanted poster issued by the police in 1888
Belle of Nelson poster advertising their sour mash whiskey, shows a Turkish harem of nude white women, and a black man with water pipe in foreground.
Lord Kitchener poster, for British army recruiting during World War I (1914)
One of the many poster aping Kitchener: Smokey Bear poster for forest fire prevention in America (1985)