CHAPTER ONE. Art Posters

CHAPTER TWO. Modern and Professional

CHAPTER THREE. Posters and Reality

CHAPTER FOU. Posters and Society



see also:



Jules Cheret
Theophile Alexandre Steinlen
Thomas Theodor Heine
Koloman Moser
Manuel Orazi
Georges de Feure
T. Privat-Livemont

Leonetto Cappiello

Will Bradley
Jan Toorop
Henri Van de Velde
Victor Moscoso
Jan Tschichold
Walter Allner
Herbert Bayer
Jean Carlu
Paul Colin
Jean Dupas
Georges Lepape
Tom Purvis
Ludwig Hohlwein
Hans Neumann
Charles Loupot
Milton Glaser
Herbert Leupin
Henri Gustave Jossot
Ruzzie Green
Jean D'Ylen
Heinz Edelmann
Franciszek Starowieysk
Alan Aldridge
Martin Sharp
Roman Cieslewicz
Jan Lenica
Tomi Ungerer
Tadanori Yokoo
Karel Teissig

Collection: Cards and Posters
G. BarbierR. Cramer, J. Harbour, R. Kirchner, C. Zander, d'Erte)



Posters and Reality


'I fear there is something essentially vulgar about the idea of the poster, unless it is limited to simple announcements of directions or becomes a species of heraldry or sign painting - the very fact of shouting loud, the association with vulgar commercial puffing, are against the artist and just so much dead weight.' These words by Walter Crane express a superior attitude towards the applied arts, as though the fine arts could never really function in the market place. However, one of the principal art movements, already gaining momentum in the late nineteenth century, was to raise the level of painting to a shout. This was the movement known as
Expressionism, a forceful and emotional statement in the arts, which formed an alternative to the naturalism of much nineteenth-century work. Its origins can be traced in most non-Mediterranean countries and its roots extend back many centuries. With the paintings of Van Gogh and Edvard Munch, this form of expression was given currency: an example of particular significance is the design that Munch made in 1895 - The Cry. Munch had spent some years in Paris in the 1890s and we may assume that the posters of Toulouse-Lautrec and others had affected his art. But the establishment of Expressionist methods of strong emotional forms and bright colours was to become a significant influence on posters. For example, Jan Lenica's design for Wozzeck in 1964 is de-scended directly from Munch's earlier design. The use of Expressionist techniques in advertising raised the shout (from which Walter Crane had recoiled) to a scream.

In 1917 the use of Expressionist techniques, on one hand, and the purely realist treatment of subject-matter in advertising, on the other, became an issue when Roland Hoist and Albert Hahn took part in a public discussion. In the introduction to an exhibition of 'Art in Advertising' in that year at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Roland Hoist wrote that poster artists now had the rare opportunity to serve a practical end at the same time as satisfying the need to produce something decorative as purely and as beautifully as possible, as well as meeting the demands of graphic art. He wrote:

For nothing can be more eye-catching at present, amid the aimless characterlessness surrounding us, than something which has a firm purpose. It is both a waste of time and senseless to try and beat this lack of character at its own game, and at no time was it ever degrading to acknowledge oneself weaker than what is despicable.

Following an attack from the trade paper Dc Bedrijfsreclame, Roland Hoist published his answer, which continued his argument, in Overkunst en kunstenaars I (Amsterdam 1923). Included in this were these words:

.... there are two things an advertisement can be. It can cither be a simple piece of information or it can be a shout. . . . There is no need to shout out the truth, because it can be stated quietly without having to be over-emphasized.

The opposing view was presented by Albert Hahn in Schoonheid en Samenleving (Amsterdam 1929):

What we arc concerned with in art in advertising is a type of art seen by everybody, and one whose very nature enables it to influence even those people who care little for art and who, as a rule, would never consider entering an art gallery or an exhibition. It is street art pure and simple, and as such out and out popular.

Later, in another article which appeared in the journal of the Social Democratic Workers Party (De Socialistische Gids) he states:

We live, unfortunately, in capitalistic circumstances still, our world is one of competition. Under the social conditions in which we live things arc not produced in order to satisfy human needs, but, on the contrary, in a manner that is utterly anarchistic. . . . Why not a shout, if that is what is needed? If the artist is a genuine one, even his shouting is beautiful. . . . According to what he is asked to do ... the artist will 'shout' or make his point emphatically in some other way. In doing so he will usually make use of strongly contrasting colours and simple shapes, since these make the most immediate appeal.

Though Hahn agreed with Roland Hoist's views on purity of craftsmanship, he thought that the latest graphic techniques should be used to produce the clear and simple results that good advertising required. While praising Roland Hoist's posters, he felt there were other ways of working, that instead of information and the requirements of lithography one could have the shout - in bold colours and simple forms. Although this exchange originally referred to posters in the Netherlands, the two attitudes are fundamental.

The poster that
Ernst Kirchner  produced in 1910 for the German art movement called Die Brucke, is a characteristic example of Expressionism in poster form. Passionately nationalistic, the poster is painted in the colours of the German Imperial flag. The work is a striking alternative to the influence of Paris. Die Brucke as an art movement had much of the wild colour that appeared in the contemporary movement in France - the Fauves - but in addition the members of the German movement were really an association of independent artists and their public. Their work also seemed to have more social awareness than the French paintings, which were more concerned with light, warmth and colour in a purely sensuous way. The German painters provided the work, and their public, by joining the Die Brucke association, could contribute financially. This exchange required a system of advertising, and it is in this connection that there exists a direct relationship between Expressionism and the poster.

In Paris certain decorative elements had contributed to the genesis of the poster, both from the traditional French sources -the paintings of the eighteenth century - and from popular circus and fairground designs. Expressionism also had its sources, and these became new influences added to the growing stylistic background of poster art. These sources included the woodcuts and prints of the Middle Ages, as well as the work of more recent artists who, though they lived and worked in Paris, had explored new avenues: Vallotton (Swiss), Van Gogh and Van Dongen (Dutch), Munch (Norwegian). In addition, Gauguin's primitivism found a strong stylistic outlet through the work of the Die Briicke painters. Kirchner's poster is simple but also dramatic. This sense of drama - the drama of each individual - turns the poster into something much more dynamic than anything that Art Nouveau decoration could inspire.

Two aspects of
Expressionism are distinguished by Paul Fechter in Der Expressionismus (1919): an intense Expressionism characterized by extreme individualism, and the experience of a painter like Pechstein 'whose creative impulse flows from a cosmic feeling which his will fashions and transforms'. The first type is exemplified by the work of Kandinsky, who, at the moment of most intense feeling, withdraws from the external world and achieves a visual transcendentalism with free forms and colours that are independent from the logic of appearances. The poster work of Kokoschka (Der Sturm and the bathers of 1921) and Kathe Kollwitz belong to the second category.

In France, Henri Gustave Jossot's poster Sales Gueules (1899) and two posters by Steinlen show a similar use of pictorial drama that one associates with Expressionism: Le Petit Sou (1900) and a poster for his own work made in 1903. In the Netherlands an early example of this type of poster is found in the work of Mari Bauer (Marius Alex Jacques) in 1898. In Poland posters have often showed a markedly Expressionist character. In a poster for the Sztuka Association in 1898 Teodor Axentowicz produced a design that is an Expressionist version of Art Nouveau, strong and forceful - yet in the same year his contemporary Wojciech Weiss could produce a design for an artist's soiree that is a pale imitation of Parisian decoration.

Henri Gustave Jossot

The rise of
Expressionism as a movement in the arts also coincided with the development of the cinema, and in Germany early films in this style were remarkable examples of Expressionist art. Lotte Eisner has noted that 'the leaning towards violent contrast - which in Expressionist literature can be seen in the use of staccato sentences - and the inborn German liking for chiaroscuro and shadow, obviously found an ideal artistic outlet in the cinema.' These effects can easily be transcribed to posters, and the cinema poster in Germany certainly used Expressionist devices - for example, a work by Stahl-Arpke for The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1919). In cases of this sort the film material was conceived in the same idiom. The elements of Expressionism that appear in Fritz Lang's Metropolis are echoed in the poster by Schulz-Neudamm advertising the film (1926). In England, Will Dyson designed a similarly dramatic poster for the film Moriarty.

More recently
Expressionism has found its exponents in Roman Cieslewicz - for example, his poster for Kafka's The Trial (1964) - and Waldemar Swierzy, whose posters have strong colours edged in heavy black outline. This technique of underlining the drawing forcefully was given an ultimate expression in the poster by Jefim Cwik of the Soviet Union, May Day (1965). An uncompromising close-up of a clenched fist in thick, dark outline, it typifies the basic element of force that the Expressionist image can produce. In this case one is uncomfortably close to those monolithic images of power that many regimes have used in their displays of propaganda.

Technical Expressionist devices, such as the distorted gesture or the thick brush-mark and impasto, have also left their mark on posters. Technique became the subject of much Abstract Expressionist painting in the United States and elsewhere. In 'action paintings' - together with works described in France as Tachiste -artists such as Georges Mathieu could adapt a painterly style to poster design (Air France). The same company also used the rapid gestural mark of the loaded brush, implying speed, in a poster by Roger Excoffon in 1964. Such is the versatility of applied Expressionism that Excoffon was able to use the same technique for the Bally Shoe Company in 1965 - this time the sweeping curve of the artist's brush implied 'elegance'. In Switzerland Hans Falk has developed a series of painterly, decorative compositions, in which he makes use of brilliant slabs of colour that remind one of paintings by dc Stael or de Kooning. The painterly use of broad areas of paint, as in Abstract Expressionism, has become part of the striking power of poster language: a number of posters submitted by leading designers for the Olympic Games of 1972 in Munich still use the language of
Abstract Expressionism.


In June 1919, speaking at an exhibition of Art in Advertising in Rotterdam, the designer Jac Jongert said: 'Power in advertising, achievable through purity of design, can also be attained simply by reproducing the article itself clearly and beautifully, when it becomes as it were an advertising agent for the manufacturers.' Many critics, however, have felt that the poster sinks to the level of a catalogue illustration when the product as such is merely reproduced, and that instead poster art should be an exercise in sophisticated combinations of word and image. In fact, artists from Leger to Andy Warhol have used the advertiser's method of presenting an isolated object which, as a single image, has become part of visual experience. There are other reasons why this re-presentation of a product has been used so extensively. The meticulous representation of an object for sale, perhaps on a different scale from that of the original, helps to make that product a familiar part of one's experience and therefore easily recognizable in a shop. In any case a faithful reproduction, itself a quality product, helps to project confidence in the original.

The direct illustration in posters is as old as the poster itself. In fact, as we have seen, book illustration was one of the formative influences on the original development of pictorial advertising, which, when extended, becomes the poster as we know it. The way in which
Cheret and others then established the combination of word and image gave the poster its special character, but nevertheless, the designer often reverted to the former practice of 'illustrating' the subject of the advertisement. By this time techniques in printing and the established language of poster-scale designs prevented the realistic poster from becoming confused with the advertisement on the page. Even Cheret himself produced designs of a descriptive kind, such as Charite-Secours Families Marina Naufrages (1893). Moreau-Nelaton worked in this style, and the tradition was continued in the posters of Leon and Alfred Choubrac, such as Lavabos, and in the delicate lithographs of Ibels - e.g., L'Escarmouche (1893). Eitaku Kano's poster Herbal Pharmacy (1897) in Japan shows a very objective design from a country whose descriptions of 'the passing show' of the street are usually associated with stylization. Many of the entertainment posters of the fin de siecle used a straightforward descriptive method of displaying actresses and dancers as early examples of pin-ups: examples of this are the posters by Jules Alexandre Grim in Paris, such as La Boite a Fursy (1899), which includes about twenty portrait heads, La Сigale Generate (1899) and Les Petits Croise's (1900). A similar combination of portraiture with the stylization of Art Nouveau appears in a poster by Duyck and Crespin (1894) in Brussels, Alcazar Royal. In Germany early examples of realistic designs are those of George Braumuller, Amelang'sche Kunsthandlung (1903); and Edmund Edel, Berliner Morgenpost (1902) and Berliner Volks-Zeitung (1909).

Many English posters for commercial products as well as those for entertainments were carried out in naturalistic terms - a common practice in most countries. Even pantomime posters in Great Britain, which might well have used the element of fantasy, as in the more rococo designs from France, were often illustrative in a realistic manner. In Amsterdam in 1890 a tea merchant, E. Brandsma, organized a competition for an advertising card. Although the professional artistic jury selected finalists with suitable designs in the manner of fashionable Oriental patterns, he decided to award a special prize for the most suitable advertisement. The winning design was of an Oriental setting but conceived in a completely realistic Western manner.

The craze for cycling produced a number of cycling posters; even Forain in 1891 and
Toulouse-Lautrec in 1897 (La Cliaine Simpson) produced posters of the new machine. Pal (Jean de Paleologue), Misti (Misti-Mifliez), De Beers, Clouet, Busset, Chapcllier and the Choubracs were other artists who made posters showing men, and particularly women, perched high on the upright machines. These posters give an accurate account of the fashions of the period.

Another subject that attracted a realistic interpretation was sea-travel. In the Netherlands, posters such as Red Star Line (c. 1914) by Cassiers or those by Van der Leck are examples of clear, illustrative works in a technique that has been revived many times in every country. This toy-like world has a universal appeal and, because of its commonplace vision, can be understood at a glance. These posters, however, invite close inspection and belong to the tradition of coloured prints of ships.

Posters that illustrated with precision the new mechanical resources of the twentieth century were only one area of realistic design. Realism was employed to advertise high-quality products generally, for the careful craft of engraving could convey an accurate picture. The skilled work of artists in black and white, such as that of Frank Brangwyn (i867-1956) in England still maintained standards of representation that the camera could not equal. At the end of the First World War, however, the work of photographers such as Arnold Genthe (1869-1942) could compete with the hand-made image, and photography became acceptable in posters. This was developed in the United States in particular, where most advertising in any case became naturalistic in presentation. Commercial enterprises in this quickly developing society made use of realistic painting for the page and the billboard. Following the decorative art-posters in the style of
Art Nouveau, posters in the United States were more directly attached to the demands of commerce, which, even in Europe (as we have seen), would have became more realistic if left to the decisions of businessmen. In the United States, the decorative arts of Paris or movements like De Stijl and Constructivism were not close enough geographically or artistically to provide sufficient influence. Instead a realistic image, although this might take a humorous form, was more generally acceptable. By 1941 this process had even succeeded in minimizing the effects of the European styles that had appeared in the United States in the late thirties. In the New York Art Directors' 23rd Annual Report (1941) one finds this statement:

The flat 'European' poster technique has been more and more discarded in favour of a three-dimensional rendering. Color photography, photomontage and the airbrush have helped to streamline the American poster. . . . Realistic-naturalistic posters are by far in the majority, with only an occasional modern, abstract or symbolic design here or there.

But this represented the supremacy of a trend in poster design that had been a continuous development. In 1924 it is found in Lyen-decker's poster, The Dancing Couple. There are several variations of his design but always painted in careful detail. The calculated response to such faithful realism is similar to the feelings evoked by John Ruskin in his description of Holman Hunt's painting, The Awakening Conscience, which was printed in The Times in May 1854. Ruskin described the effect of the painstaking realism of all the subsidiary details; in Leyndecker's poster it is, for example, the simple, freshly pressed party clothes of the couple that produce a sentimental response. The large billboard gave a new dimension to this portrayal of naturalism, and designers such as Ruzzie Green, Howard Scott, Lester Beall, Paul Rand and Jack Welch all provided designs of impeccable accuracy. Their work reflected a popular concept of the consumer society, illustrated in Welch's Drake's Cookies (1956), which used humour as well as photographic realism. A small boy who has been attacked by a greedy colleague is shown still happily in possession of his cookie. The biscuit and every freckle on his face are presented with clinical accuracy. Artists such as Hohlwein from Germany had also contributed to this tradition of realistic art in commercial advertising, but the real influence had been the small photographic, magazine advertisement - a glossy, realistic picture which was enlarged to billboard proportions. This represented the perfect image of the ideal world of the successful citizen - a world that one could buy and an environment that advertising was helping to create.


Ruzzie Green

In Europe the effects of photography on poster design also came from the same sources as the other avant-garde influences. Artists like Lissitzky and Moholy-Nagy expressed their ideas not only in paint but also with a camera. Photography and typography were used together in the new developments pioneered by Piet Zwart and Jan Tschichold. In his book Asymmetric Typography, first published in 1935 and quoted here in Ruari McLean's first English translation in 1967, Tschichold writes, under the heading 'Typography, photography and drawings':

The signs and letters in the composing room are not the only means at the disposal of the new typography. Pictures are often better than words; they convey more and say it quicker. The natural method of pictorial representation today is photography. Its uses are now so varied that we would be lost without them. The quality of the photograph is a decisive factor in the success of any job which uses it. Photography has its own rules, which arc based on the same principles as those of the new typography.

As well as normal photography, for example, photograms (photography without a camera, a technique developed and made new by Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray), negative photography, double exposures and other combinations (e.g. the outstanding self-portrait of Lissitzky) and photomontage. Any or all could be used in the service of graphic expression. They can help to make a message clearer, more attractive and visually richer. . . . Photography, drawing and type arc all parts, to make up a whole. In their proper subordination to that whole lies the value of their use.

The work of Tschichold, one of the most significant single influences on design generally - including the poster - shows clearly how photography, as a design element, should be linked with other elements. Many posters, however, rely on the effect of a large photograph by itself. Although this can achieve a striking image it is really nothing more than a blow-up from the page of a magazine. In order to make the same product part of a billboard advertisement it is necessary to isolate an object - if necessary by representing it accurately, but achieving a new reality by the simple process of enlargement.

This leads us to consider the step that we now take beyond reality when a realistic image is isolated and enlarged. An element of fantasy is introduced at the sight of a perfectly normal image that has become a giant. The effect of fantasy is increased if the image is banal or if in some way the incongruity of the new situation is exploited. Sometimes an atmosphere of super-reality is created by the attempts of the advertisers to try to shout louder than their rivals, and it is this free-for-all that has produced some of the most exciting, indigenous material, which artists like Claes Oldenburg and Tom Wesselmann have used as raw material for their work.

A more sophisticated approach to the process of making quotations from the real world than the direct method of creating a realistic image, was pioneered by Braque and Picasso in their Cubist experiments, and by
Boccioni and his associates in the Futurist movement. Braque introduced designs of everyday lettering, such as the stencil and newsprint, into his compositions; Picasso made similar use of this actual quotation from reality and increased the possibilities of this departure by including three-dimensional objects - thus anticipating the art of assemblage. In his painting The Cavalry Charge, Boccioni shows how the introduction of a section of newsprint lends a feeling of immediate reportage; for all its modernity, the work would otherwise still remain a conventional easel painting.

Futurism, like Cubism, was based on reality, and had a direct effect on poster design through the experiments made in typography. 'I am against what is known as the harmony of a setting,' wrote Marinetti in 1909; 'when necessary we shall use three or four columns to a page and twenty different typefaces. We shall represent hasty perceptions in italics, and express a Scream in Bold type; a new painterly typographic representation will be born on the printed page.' A comparison between the use of lettering in Cubist and Futurist painting explains the nature of the different influences at work. In a Cubist painting the fragmentary quotations of words and letters like Valse, Bar, Pernod, Rhum, Journal, Ma Jolie are associations with the real world: one might call them drops of sentiment in the otherwise austere interpretation of reality that Cubism presented. The letters are always in Old Face capitals - a link with the classical world of the past. In Futurist lettering we find aggressive, phonetic symbols conveying a message, such as Basta Basta Basta, VOOOooooo, scrAbrrRaaNNG, SIMULTAN-EITA, ESPLOSIONE, using a variety of type. Although the Futurists used some of the devices of the Cubists, they were also borrowing the note of immediacy and sensationalism from political broadsheets. In fact, the mixed type used in the popular political and music-hall bills of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is the ancestor of this typographical variety.

Futurist art was concerned with restlessness and dynamism -qualities of great importance to advertising - and it was not, in any sense, a formal art movement. Nor was
Dada - a movement quite opposed to the Futurist love of war; the Dadaists registered despair at a war-mad mechanical world. Both movements used pictorial quotations of chaotic typography - the world of the popular advertisement. From this derivation the movements created new styles which, in turn, were absorbed back into poster design. The sensationalism of Kurt Schwitters' trash-images and much of the subject-matters of the photo-montages of John Heartfield derive from the street and the popular press. The giant poem conceived by Raoul Hausmann in 1919 found an echo in the work displayed in the magazine" of calligraphic art, Rhinozeros, first published in Germany in 1960. In this journal the ideas and decorative possibilities of ornamental lettering were pushed much further than was possible in commercial advertising. It contained the work of Klaus-Peter and Rolf-Gunter Dienst, Ferdinand Kriwet and Frans Mon, all artist/ poets who used the form-making properties of typography -sometimes in the poster-poem.


The Dadaists' methods of juxtaposition and surprise - the shock derived from seeing an unlikely or unexpected association of realistic elements - were also used by the Surrealists. When Andre Breton declared Dada dead in 1924 and proclaimed the arrival of Surrealism, he introduced a movement whose vitality is still apparent in the 1970s. Surrealism may be defined as the revelation of a new dimension of reality, made possible when the logic of reason is removed and an arbitrary association of images of the real world is substituted. This produces a fresh experience.

Freud once remarked to Salvador Dali that what interested him in Dali's paintings was the 'conscious' element and not the unconscious. By this, one can assume, as Arnold Hauser has pointed out, he implied that he was interested, not in the simulated paranoia of Dali's work, but in the method of simulation. For Dali had reversed the process necessary for the 'production' or inducement of surrealist manifestations - that is, to allow the unconscious mind to produce images illogically. It appears that he often searched the sub-conscious for imagery. The 'style' of his work has probably accounted for the accusation that his work appears too commercialized and exhibitionist as a result. But whatever may have been said, the whole of Dali's work represents art based on realism related to the surrealist world of dreams, and his method, which has provided him with an opportunity for some virtuoso performances in the visual arts has had an immense effect on advertising. Other painters in the movement, such as Magritte and Ernst, can of course claim a significant share in the contribution, but it is the work of Dali that captured the popular imagination. In any case he, like Duchamp, demonstrated his technical devices in window display, but Duchamp's work is necessarily obscure, and Dali's remains obvious.

Poster designers have made use of
Surrealism for three very simple reasons. In the first place, the use of realism makes the work familiar and acceptable. Secondly, the shock of finding that the image is not what was first supposed acts as a forceful reminder of that image. Thirdly, it is legitimate in Surrealist art to present an idea in several ways simultaneously. This can be done visually, without explanation or justification - an invaluable device for exhibiting a product and its effects in one design.

Of course, one can find examples of 'surrealism' before the movement was announced in the 1920s. The work of Arcimboldo in the sixteenth century, or the anthropomorphic fantasies of Grandville in the nineteenth, or in the same period the popular postcards of Killenger, in which landscapes are built up out of human forms. In fact, popular art, including posters - for example, the one by Lunel for Rouxel and Dubois in the 1890s - provided source material for the Surrealists of 1924. Many of the cycling posters and advertisements, such as Tamango's Terrot (1898) or the anonymous poster for the Dangerfield and Co., reveal some of the tensions that existed between man and machine in the new age of technology. It was one of the achievements of the avant-garde to exploit the element of fantasy in naive art, the poster of popular inspiration being a principal source of raw material - for example, Alfred Jarry and the celestial cyclists of his saga, The Passion Considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race. In fact, in 1924 the designer Jean D'Ylen was using imagery closely related to that of Surrealism in his posters for the Shell Company.

Jean D'Ylen

Jean D'Ylen

The influence of Surrealism on posters may be seen in two distinct phases. The first lasted from the 1920s until the end of the Second World War. The second starts in the 1950s and is still alive in the '70s. The first phase represents a close, direct quotation from the Surrealist movement but its translation into advertising is on the level of decoration - especially in terms of the theatre. During the second phase, after the terrible revelations of the war that ended in 1945and the uneasy peace that has followed, it is the more sinister and horrific imagery released by the Surrealist painters that has gained general expression through advertising.

There are exceptions to this rather obvious interpretation, such as the frightening imagery of
John Heartfield from the earlier phase, and the lyrical Surrealism of Push Pin Studios, in the '60s, which is reminiscent of the more decorative innocence in the '30s. But these exceptions merely underline the fact that Surrealism itself contained both the macabre visions of Max Ernst and the apparent tranquility of Paul Delvaux's moonlit landscapes. In fact, since our society has become outspoken about its state of unrest the condition of uneasiness is relieved by making public use of vicious and violent imagery in advertising as well as in most of the mass media generally. In any case, advertising can hardly lag behind the material on display in the cinema and on television. In the first phase - that is, until the end of the Second World War - poster designers borrowed elements of Surrealist composition, such as the dramatic lighting and long, cast shadows of Dc Chirico and Dali. This can be seen in the poster Ambre Solaire by
Cassandre. The props of the 'metaphysical' paintings of De Chirico and Morandi appear, for example, in a poster from the thirties by Mahler for men's clothing. Some of the most unusual works are the three-dimensional 'surrealist' assemblages of Gumitsch in the same period. In this respect they recall the work of Dali for Bon wit Teller's store in New York and his exhibition works, such as Rainy Taxi; they also remind one of the close links between advertising and the world of Surrealism at that time.

The theatre attracted the talents of Cocteau, on one hand, and
Cassandre, on the other. Theatrical elements, such as the quotation of the carefully rolled cloud, or the single draped curtain, became acceptable symbols of 'exterior' or 'interior', so that a blank stage or an advertisement layout might contain one of these elements and that would be sufficient to set the right atmosphere. A further element was taken from pre-war Surrealism - the use of humour and the absurd. This was used in the designs of Savignac and, in the second phase of Surrealist advertising, in the work of George Him - The Times (1952). This language of Surrealist symbolism has remained with the poster ever since. One of the most subtle interpretations of Surrealist techniques can be seen in Herbert Matter's All Roads Lead to Switzerland (1935) - this appears to be a photograph of mountain landscape, but in fact it is a montage of various naturalistic photographs, which, when assembled, convey a new reality that is strangely unreal.

The photo-montage works of
John Heartfield, which anticipated the tragic horrors of persecution and total war, made use of the combined devices of Dada and Surrealism to present posters of great political force: for example, For the Crisis Party Convention of the S.P.D. (1931). Heartfield's work, which seemed at the time to be the exception, has now been followed by a generation of poster designers whose work resembles his. Heinz Edelmann, in his poster fora film by Bufiuel, Klaus Warwas and
Franciszek Starowieysk have all produced savage imagery which is accepted by a hardened society.

Heinz Edelmann


Franciszek Starowieysk

Bizarre and erotic elements are used in posters such as Chelsea Girls by Alan Aldridge, and in those by Martin Sharp and Michael English, although the Surrealist influence is often deliberately confused with other stylistic elements. The more erotic Surrealist imagery used in advertising in the 1970s makes the posters of the pre-war years seem innocent and discreet by comparison. In Poland, besides the work of Starowieyski and Roman Cieslewicz, that of Jan Lenica  demonstrates that the unrest revealed in the visions of the twenties and thirties has become the generally accepted language of the period of uncertainty following the Second World War. The work of Tomi Ungerer also reflects a 'sick' society and is connected with that of Saul Steinberg, who was one of the first artists to re-interpret the Surrealist language in terms of the post-war society. The use of  Surrealism in these terms is universal, from Push Pin Studios and Peter Max in the United States to Tadanori Yokoo and Shigeru Miwa in Japan, from Armando Paeltorres in the Argentine to Brattinga in Holland and Karel Teissig in Czechoslovakia.

'A mere collection of dreams without the dreamer's associations, without the knowledge of the circumstances in which they occurred, tells me nothing and I can hardly imagine what it could tell anyone': so Freud wrote to Andre Breton. For diagnosis such detached evidence is perhaps meaningless, but as a method, as a convention in the visual arts, it has provided some powerful ideas in the history of art in general and of poster design.


Alan Aldridge


Martin Sharp


Roman Cieslewicz


Jan Lenica


Tomi Ungerer


Tomi Ungerer  "Kamasutra der Frosche"


Tadanori Yokoo


Karel Teissig



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