poster, placard designed to be posted in some public place for purposes of commercial announcement or propaganda. Advertising makes wide use of posters, as do charitable and political organizations. In ancient civilizations a simple form of written public announcement was used. The invention of printing and particularly the development of the lithographic process were of paramount importance to poster art. The advertising poster originated in the 1870s. The art of poster design requires, above all, a very clear expression of the idea or product being advanced. It must be visible at a distance and comprehended in one glance, so that lines are generally simple and colors few and bold. Lettering is kept at a minimum. In the 19th and 20th cent. numerous artists designed posters as a sideline to their other work. These include Daumier, Manet, Picasso, Ben Shahn, and Norman Rockwell. Other artists' reputations were based on their poster work. Jules Chéret, Alexandre Steinlen, Alphonse Mucha, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec made striking posters advertising entertainments and restaurants. In England outstanding poster designers included Fred Walker, Aubrey Beardsley, William Nicholson and James Pryde (the latter two collaborating under the name "the Beggarstaff Brothers"), Will Owen, and Dudley Hardy. These English artists created highly decorative posters in which the elements of picture and typography remained unified, revealing the influence of East Asian prints. Other leaders in the medium included Ludwig Hohlwein and Paul Scheurich in Germany; the Belgian Hendrik Cassiers; Lev Bakst in Russia; Toyokuni in Japan; and Ramón Casas in Spain. The American poster can be said to have originated with Matt Morgan's circus advertisements (c.1890) and was developed by Edward Penfield, Will H. Bradley, Maxfield Parrish, Howard Chandler Christie, James Montgomery Flagg, Charles Dana Gibson, and Harrison Fisher. The two World War periods produced enormous numbers of political posters; memorable among these were the works of Abram Games in England, Paul Colin in France, and Joseph Binder in the United States. Outstanding poster designers of the 20th cent. are Frank Pick, Gregory Brown, and Clive Gardiner in England; the Americans E. McKnight Kauffer, Paul Rand, Austin Cooper, Pat Keely, Robert Gage, and Peter Max; in France, A. M. Cassandre, Jean Carlu, and Charles Loupot. In Latin America and India posters are widely used in education. There has been an enormous resurgence of interest in posters used for interior decoration in the United States. Among the most popular are reprints of World War I posters; movie advertisements; works by Toulouse-Lautrec, Mucha, and Picasso; and photographs of celebrities and animals.
See M. Rickards, The Rise and Fall of the Poster (1971); J. Barnicoat, A Concise History of Posters: 1870–1970 (1972); D. Ades, The Twentieth Century Poster (1984); J. Barnicoat, Posters: A Concise History (1985).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.