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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

“Moulin Rouge - La Goulue.” (1891) Poster by Toulouse-Lautrec.

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 convey information. 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. Another type of poster is the educational poster, which may be about a particular subject for educational purposes.

Many people also collect posters, and some famous posters have themselves become quite valuable. Collectors' posters and vintage posters are usually framed and matted. Posters may be any size.


Poster history



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." [1] The modern poster, as we know it, however, dates back to 1870 when the printing industry perfected color 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."[2] 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 colors to be printed.

Developing art form

By the 1890s, the technique had spread throughout Europe. A number of noted artists created poster art in this period, foremost amongst them Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Jules Chéret. 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 colors, 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 uses

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 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 colorful 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

During the 1968 Paris student riots and for years to come, Jim Fitzpatrick's stylized poster of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara became a common youthful symbol of rebellion.[3]

Other times of great turmoil also produced great posters. The 1960s saw 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.

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, 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

Lord Kitchener recruiting poster, for the British army during World War I.

Propaganda and political posters

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[1] that warned of foreign spies. Posters during wartime were also used for propaganda purposes, persuasion, and motivation, such as the famous Rosie the Riveter posters which exhorted women workers during World War II that "We can do it!". The Soviet Union also produced a plethora of propaganda posters[2], 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. A recent example of an influential political poster is Shepard Fairey's Barack Obama "HOPE" poster.

Advertising with posters can be a "poor mans advertising media" and sometimes, it seems any surface is suitable.

Advertising 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.

Film posters

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 most valuable poster in the world, of which there is only 1 known copy, is the 1931 stone litho Frankenstein 6-sheet.[citation needed]

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.

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 1850’s, 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. [3]

A modern event poster.

Event posters

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.Posters are common because this can be hung around places where people go.

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 thus they are indeed very collectible and scarce.

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.

Educational posters

A poster session at the EPFL.

Research posters and "poster sessions"

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

Most classrooms in North American schools have posters on the walls. There are several types of these posters:

The latter two types are sometimes prepared by students as part of an assignment, but most posters are usually store-bought.

Vintage Poster Restoration/Conservation

Poster restoration and 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.

Why fabric-back a poster? The principal reason 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.

Cheesecake posters

Cheesecake posters, or "pinups," 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.


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).

An example of an affirmation poster.

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.

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.

Notable poster artists

Contemporary poster artists


Gallery See Also

  • A 1990 Hungarian political poster by Fidesz (Alliance of Young Democrats): Choose! (between Communism represented by the Communist politicians kissing in the upper image, and capitalism represented by the young couple kissing in the lower picture.)
  • The Tennis Girl poster was an iconic image from the late 1970s'
  • Death to the Brutes, an anti-war anarchist poster printed in France during the Second World War.

See also


  1. ^ Gallo, Max, The Poster in History, (2002) W.W. Norton
  2. ^ Barnicoat, John, Posters: A Concise History, (1985) Thames and Hudson
  3. ^ Che Guevara: Revolutionary & Icon, by Trisha Ziff, Abrams Image, 2006, pg 19

Further reading

  • Gosling, Peter. (1999). Scientist's Guide to Poster Presentations. New York: Kluwer. ISBN 0-306-46076-9.
  • King, Emily. (2003). A Century of Movie Posters: From Silent to Art House. Barron's. ISBN 0-7641-5599-7.
  • Noble, Ian. (2002). Up Against the Wall: International Poster Design. Mies, Switzerland: RotoVision. ISBN 2-88046-561-3.
  • Timmers, Margaret. (2003). Power of the Poster. Victoria and Albert Museum. ISBN 0-8109-6615-8.
  • Le Coultre, Martijn F. & Purvis, Alston W, (2002)A Century of Posters, Lund Humphries ISBN 0-85331-863-8
  • Rennert, Jack, (1990), Posters of the Belle Epoque, Wine Spectator Press, ISBN 0-9664202-1-7
  • Wrede, Stuart, (1988), The Modern Poster, Little Brown and Company, ISBN 0-87070-570-9
  • Gold, Laura (1988), Posters, Please ISBN 0-9664202-0-9
  • Cole, Beverley and Durack, Richard (1992), Railway Posters 1923-1947, Laurence King, ISBN 1-85669-014-8

External links






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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also Poster




Etymology 1

from to post (placcard, publish) + -er


Wikipedia has an article on:




poster (plural posters)

  1. A person who posts.
  2. An advertisement to be posted on a pole, wall etc. to advertise something.
    I saw a poster for it on the side of a bus.
  3. A picture of a celebrity, an event etc., intended to be attached to a wall.
    He has posters of his favorite band, sports teams and holiday resorts up.
  4. (ice hockey) (slang) A shot which only hits a goal post without going in
    We got three posters in the third and lost.
Derived terms
  • movie poster
  • OP
  • poster paint

Etymology 2

from to post (travel, dispatch) + -er




poster (plural posters)

  1. A post-horse
  2. (archaic) A swift traveler



Etymology 1

from posten


poster m. (plural posters, diminutive postertje, diminutive plural postertjes)

  1. One who sets out posts, such as sentinels

Etymology 2

from English poster


poster m. (plural posters, diminutive postertje, diminutive plural postertjes)

  1. A billboard to be posted on a public or private place



Etymology 1

From poste 'the mail (service)'



  1. (transitive) To post, (put in the) mail

Etymology 2

from English poster


poster m. (plural posters, diminutive postertje, diminutive plural postertjes)

  1. A billboard to be posted on a public or private place



Etymology 1

from English poster


Inflection for poster Singular Plural
common Indefinite Definite Indefinite Definite
Base form poster postern poster posterna
Possessive form posters posterns posters posternas
  1. poster; picture of celebrity, activity etc. to be posted

Etymology 2



  1. indefinite plural of post

Simple English

File:Mucha-Moët & Chandon Crémant Impé
Alphonse Mucha Moët & Chandon Crémant Impérial poster (1899) Colour lithography

A poster is a large piece of printed paper that has a picture of something. Posters are made to be shown on a wall or other flat surface. Posters may be used for advertising, education, propaganda, and decoration. They may also be copies of famous works of art.


Chromolithography and the poster

Chromolithography (colour lithography) was invented by Engelmann and son, who were granted a patent in 1837.[1] After that, it was a matter of time before it reached full commercial development.

Because of its low production costs, over the 50 years after the American Civil War, millions of chromolithographs were printed and were sold for under $10. Louis Prang, a Bostonian, produced fine-art subjects, such as still lifes, landscapes, and classical subjects.[2] Nevertheless, it was only after the Jules Chéret posters, in 1847, that the potential of this technical process for creation of artistic posters was realized.[3]


Jules Chéret

19th century posters in the US

Louis John Rhead

Edward Penfield

Toulouse-Lautrec and Post-impressionism

Art nouveau posters and the impact of graphics on painting

Posters in the first half of the 20th century



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