According to the 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 the mid-nineteenth century, when several separate but related changes took place. First, the printing industry perfected colour lithography and made mass production of large and inexpensive images possible. Second, government censorship of public spaces in countries like France was lifted. And finally, advertisers began to market mass-produced consumer goods to a growing populace in urban areas.
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 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 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.
Lithograph poster for Ranch 10, a Western-themed play by Harry Meredith which opened in New York City in August 1882
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.
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.
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 poster, 2005
Replacing an advertising poster in London using an aerial work platform.
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 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.
Many concerts, particularly rock concerts, have custom-designed posters that are used for advertisement of the event. These often become collectors items as well.
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.
Main article: Blacklight poster
Blacklight posters are designed to have a special effect under a blacklight (ultraviolet light).
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.
An example of an affirmation poster
Main 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.
Publications 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.
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. They may be considered as grey literature. Poster presentations are often not peer-reviewed, but can instead be submitted, meaning that as many as can fit will be accepted.
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 (such as lab safety and proper hand washing) ; artwork and displays by the students.
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