By Marshall Jung
Like most print media,
graphic arts were dependent on the invention of the printing press. This
allowed for the mass production of all shapes and sizes of posters as well.
The technique that is used to print posters, is called lithography. This is
printing by placing ink on a series of metal or stone ("lithos") carvings
which are really reliefs of color regions on the poster.
The Art of Lithography was invented by Alois Senefelder in 1798 in Austria.
By1848 the process had been refined to the point that it was possible to
print 10,000 sheers per hour. The First person to produce posters in mass
through Lithography was Jules Chéret (1836-1933). He worked in Paris, where
his very first poster was entitled Orphée aux Enfants(1958). In 1889
Chéret was awarded the Legion of Honor for creating a "new branch of art."
Styles at the turn of the Century
The main style at the turn of the century is
what came to be known as Art Nouveau. Art Nouveau is basically the addition
of ornamental value to linear design and organic shapes. Art Nouveau was
meant to represent new social developments, new technologies and new
expression of the spirit. For this reason, posters are a wonderful
reflection of society at the time.
Art Nouveau flourished all over the world; in Germany it was called
Jugendstil, in France it was called Le style Moderne, In Austria Secession,
in Italy Stile Liberty and in Spain it was called Modernista. It was hoped
that Art Nouveau would integrate society and art and break away from what
had become an almost entirely academic discipline.
Alphonse Mucha was one of the pioneers of Art Nouveau. Mucha integrated
Japanese prints into his works which was a deviation from his earlier
One very large part of Art Nouveau was came to be called Symbolism. It was
meant to tell a whole story in a picture. Images were meant to be loaded
with meaning from religious or revered images to the profane. This can be
seen in Josef Sattler's work as well as the work of many other students of
Art Nouveau. The rise of Symbolism coincided with a rising European middle
class who was more educated and who could understand the symbolism of the
In America, posters took on a role that most of Western Europe had not
adopted yet. In America posters served as a propaganda tool to rouse the
populous. The Division of Pictorial Publicity consisted of 279 artists and
33 cartoonists including Coles Philip. The Main style adopted in America was
that of the illustrator. Simple, clear posters which sent one concise
After W.W.I, a new artistic style arose. This style was called Dadaism. This
style was based in a nihilistic philosophy. It described the world as a
chaotic place having no real meaning or import. This idea, was of course,
propagated by the horrors of W.W.I. The name "Dada" apparently was chosen
because in 1916, in Zurich, in Hugo Ball's Cabaret :Voltaire a group of
young artists stuck a knife into a French-German dictionary. The knife
pointed to the word "dada" which means "hobby-horse" in French. This style
of choosing an identity reflects the true level of meaninglessness that
these artists saw in the world.
Links to poster images
Below are some links to pages
containg images of posters. Each page begins with text describing a little
bit about the style of the poster contained therein. Also included will be
the historical significance of each poster as it relates to its own time
period, as well as the passage of events before and after.
page contains two posters by American illustrators. They are notable for
their level of propaganda and the fact that they were government funded.
Both posters are simple and direct in the message they convey.
This section contains posters in the Art Nouveau style. The artists art
Mucha and Sattler, two well known artists for their work in Symbolism and
page talks a little more in-depth on some of the ideas of Dadaism and there
historical significance. It also talks about some of the Dadaist thinkers
and how their views were founded.
page shows how art, and especially poster art is highly reactive to societal
and cultural strains. This reactivity provides a forum in which society can
be viewed through a magnifying glass. This medium is truely unlike no other