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The History of Poster Art
Poster art has its development origins in Paris, France after the creation of the three-color lithograph process around 1850.
Led by the work of the father of the industry, Jules Chéret, the poster provided
a low cost method of advertising for theatrical and sporting events as well as store and manufacturers' goods.
The industry attracted the service of many aspiring painters who needed a source of revenue to support themselves.
Competition spawned a breed of poster art specialists and by the 1870s, colorful posters dotted the city of Paris.
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 commercialized, of average quality, and few saw any real artistic creativity.
In France, posters became a work of art that 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.
By the 1890s, poster art had widespread usage in other parts of Europe,
advertising everything from a bicycle to a bullfight.
By the end of the 19th century, during an era known as the Belle Époque,
personalities such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec raised the level of poster art 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.
Other creators such as Eugène Grasset and Alphonse Mucha helped develop Art Nouveau,
a complete new style for poster presentations and more.
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.
Movie Theater Influence
The advent of the movie theater saw a new form of poster art,
the Movie poster and although mass produced on lower quality paper intended to have a short lifespan,
they nevertheless showed the same creativity of their forerunners in poster art.
World War I saw the Belle Époque draw to a close and with it came a sharp decline in the
demand for commercial posters as the world had to focus on war-related messages.
In the United States, effective use was made of the Uncle Sam image
created on a poster by James Montgomery Flagg.
Directed at citizens to encourage enlistment in the military, to buy war bonds,
or to participate in the war effort in other ways, Montgomery's poster proved very effective.
Limited in their application during the 1930s, following World War II,
television advertising all but killed the poster industry.
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