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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).



(1) A genre of graphic art.

(2) A work of graphic art consisting of a simple and clear (usually colored) picture accompanied by a brief text. Posters are usually executed on large sheets of paper for the purpose of propaganda, advertising, communication, or education.

The modern poster is usually a printed copy of an original work produced by an artist. Until the late 19th century, the term “poster” was sometimes used to designate large propagandistic engravings (such as the “flying leaflets” of the Peasant’s War and the Reformation in 16th-century Germany) and the political notices issued in 18th-century France.

A poster should be visible at a great distance and stand out among other sources of information. A poster combines a number of special artistic devices in order to attract the viewer’s attention and interest, spur him to thought, and guide his consciousness and will to action in the desired direction. Such devices include pictorial metaphors, commonly understood symbols, simplification of form, and contrasts between pictures of different sizes and between depictions of events occurring at different times and in different places. The calligraphic style, the placement of the text, and the use of stylized compositional and coloristic solutions play an important role in poster design. Photography is sometimes used separately or in combination with drawing or painting. Many posters devoted to international politics or everyday life are characterized by satirical, universally understood images.

The poster appeared initially as a means of advertising and was used later for political purposes. Its appearance coincided with an exacerbation of commercial and industrial competition in the capitalist economy and with an intensification of sociopolitical and cultural life. There were a growing number of spectator activities, industrial and artistic exhibitions, and mass meetings and demonstrations. Lithography made possible the rapid production of colorful posters in large numbers.

The advertising poster in late-19th-century Western Europe evolved from pictureless playbills and book advertisements. The text was increasingly subordinated to ornamentation and figurative depictions. A leading role in the development of the poster in the late 19th century was played by such French artists as J. Chéret, H. Toulouse-Lautrec, and T. Steinlen. The distinctive artistic features of the poster were first established in the works of Toulouse-Lautrec. These included simplification and stylization of form (instantly recognizable and, at times, grotesque), close-up character of the image, and emphasis on the silhouette and on bold local color.

Most of the posters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were ornamental art nouveau compositions. They were distinguished from book and newspaper illustrations mainly by size. Art nouveau posters were produced by E. Grasset and A. Mucha in France, A. Beardsley in England, and W. Bradley and E. Penfield in the USA. Some posters from this period were naturalistic.

After 1910 the poster gradually lost its direct ties with art nouveau book and newspaper graphics and, at times, approached the spirit of painting (for example, the posters of O. Fischer in Germany and F. Brangwyn in Great Britain). The posters of L. Cappiello effectively combined the “pictorial” and the “thematic” principles.

Commercial posters were increasingly marked by a more palpable depiction of the product being advertised. This was evident first in the works of L. Bernhard, J. Klinger, L. Höhlwein, and others in Germany and later, after 1920, in the works of artists of other countries. The distinctive artistic and stylistic features of poster design—dynamic composition, metaphorical imagery, stylization of color, and simplification of form—were particularly well expressed in the works of the French artist A. M. Cassandre (A. Mouron).

With the development of cinematography, posters announcing “coming attractions” became popular. At first, the posters depicted individual frames from the motion picture. Film posters later became more descriptive, striving to depict the principal characters and to give an idea of the film’s genre and subject matter.

In the 1920’s and 1930’s, posters were widely used in campaigns to combat occupational accidents in the manufacturing and construction industries.

The political poster appeared in the first years of the 20th century. Its most significant achievements have been associated with the democratic movement and the struggle for peace. The first political posters were produced by Steinlen in France and J. Waltkorn and K. Kollwitz in Germany.

During World War I, agitational posters calling for army enlistment, subscription to war bonds, and aid to the wounded were widespread. Such posters influenced the subsequent development of poster design (the works of A. Lit in England and J. Febvre in France).

In the 1920’s and 1930’s, the growth of the labor movement and the struggle of nations against imperialistic reactionism and fascism stimulated political poster art in Western Europe. Passionate revolutionary fervor imbued the posters issued in Hungary during the existence of the Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919 (works by R. Bereny, M. Biró, B. Witz), as well as the election posters of the Communist Party and the antifascist posters in Germany (by M. H. Pechstein, John Heartfield) and the posters in defense of Republican Spain.

During World War II, antifascist posters were especially widespread. After the war, posters in defense of peace were executed by such artists as P. Picasso in France, L. Méndez in Mexico, and T. Trepkowski in Poland.

Stylistically, poster design of the 1920’s to the 1970’s has been closely related to painting, graphic art, and photography. (Shortly before 1920, Heartfield produced photomontage posters; the Soviet artist G. G. Klutsis later turned to this technique.) The development of other means of mass communication and advances in the printing industry also influenced the development of poster design.

In prerevolutionary Russia, where there was an absence of basic bourgeois-democratic freedoms, the political poster could not exist. Even the advertising poster was poorly developed. Highly artistic theatrical and exhibition posters, however, were produced by I. la. Bilibin, V. A. Serov, and K. A. Somov.

The Soviet political poster had its inception and attained an extremely high level of development during the Civil War of 1918-20. Developing the traditions of the Russian lubok (popular broadside) and the satirical graphic art of the revolutionary period of 1905-07, such artists as D. S. Moor, V. N. Deni, and V. V. Lebedev founded an essentially new, militant art, which greatly influenced world poster design. The ideological orientation, revolutionary fervor, and high artistic level of the Soviet poster made it a genuinely mass-directed means of agitation and political enlightenment and an effective weapon in the struggle for Soviet power. During the same years, V. V. Mayakovsky and M. M. Cheremnykh developed a new type of poster—the Okna ROSTA (see OKNA ROSTA).

A. A. Deineka, G. G. Klutsis, L. M. Lisitskii, lu. I. Pimenov, A. M. Rodchenko, the Sternberg brothers, and A. I. Strakhov all played an important role in the development of Soviet poster art in the 1920’s and early 1930’s.

During the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45, the poster was effective in mobilizing the people for struggle against the enemy. In this period, as in the postwar years, prominent Soviet poster artists included V. S. Ivanov, L. F. Golovanov, A. A. Kokore-kin, V. B. Koretskii, the Kukryniksy, I. M. Toidze, and D. A. Shmarinov. During the war, effective posters were produced by the collectives Okna TASS and Boevoi Karandash and by many individual painters, including A. A. Plastov, I. A. Serebrianyi, and V. A. Serov.

Poster art developed intensively in the Union republics after the mid-1940’s. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, film, theater, and exhibition posters became popular, as did posters dealing with health education and occupational safety (by such artists as Iu. Galkus, S. I. Datskevich, D. A. Dundua, V. S. Karakashev, O. M. Savostiuk and B. A. Uspenskii, E. Shakhtakhtinskaia, and E. S. Tsvik).

In the spring of 1974, by a decision of the Secretariat of the CC of the CPSU, a new publishing house of the CC of the CPSU —Plakat—was established in Moscow.


Polonskii, V. Russkii revoliutionnyi plakat. Moscow, 1922.
Tugendkhol’d, la. “Plakat na Zapade.” In his book Khudozhestvennaia kul’tura Zapada. Moscow-Leningrad, 1928.
Butik-Siverskii, B. Sovetskii plakat epokhi grazhdanskoi voiny: 1918-1921. Moscow, 1960. (Bibliographical index.)
Demosfenova, G., A. Nurok, and N. Shantyko. Sovetskii reklamnyiplakat. Moscow, 1962.
[Liakhov, V.] Sovetskii reklamnyi plakat. Torgovaia reklama. Zreli-shchnaia reklama. 1917-1932. [Moscow, 1972.] (In Russian, English, and German.)
Hutchison, H. F. The Poster: An Illustrated History. New York [1968].
Hillier, B. Histoire de l’affiche. Paris [1970].
Sehindler, H. Monographie des Plakats. Munich [1972].


References in classic literature ?
The first things I had been able to get for myself had been cigarette pictures, cigarette posters, and cigarette albums.
Men were going about carrying large posters, and flags and streamers were floating in the wind; while loud cries were heard on every hand.
And nothing remains but lingering perhaps in the memory of a few men, the sound of their names, vanished a long time ago from the first page of the great London dailies; from big posters in railway-stations and the doors of shipping offices; from the minds of sailors, dockmasters, pilots, and tugmen; from the hail of gruff voices and the flutter of signal flags exchanged between ships closing upon each other and drawing apart in the open immensity of the sea.
The agent stared still more, but assented civilly, and led the other into an office littered with leaflets and hung all round with highly colored posters which linked the name of Hughes with all the higher interests of humanity.
They had emerged on a small square, brilliantly lighted, of which the principal building was gay with gilding, gaudy with posters, and flanked with two giant photographs of Malvoli and Nigger Ned.
But this is the unvarnished record of an odious hour, and it passed without further aggravation from without; only, as I drove to Sloane Street, the news was on all the posters, and on one I read of "a clew" which spelt for me a doom I was grimly resolved to share.
Some of these painted walls reminded me somewhat of the tall van, plastered with fanciful bills and posters, that follows the bandwagon of a circus about a country village.
Not only did it seem to him (as to all administrators) that he controlled the external actions of Moscow's inhabitants, but he also thought he controlled their mental attitude by means of his broadsheets and posters, written in a coarse tone which the people despise in their own class and do not understand from those in authority.
If you had been, we might have had a large woodcut of the last scene for the posters, showing the whole depth of the stage, with the pump and tubs in the middle; but, however, if you're not, it can't be helped.
The posters, maculated with filth, garnished like tapestry the sweep of the curbstone.
Her head drooped; from the windows of a building with terraces and balconies came the banal sound of hotel music; before the low mean portals of the Casino two red posters blazed under the electric lamps, with a cheap provincial effect.
Inspired Posters has announced a new line of products, all of which are designed and made in the USA.