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The Poster Craze

Exuberant color posters of cabaret stars proliferating on the streets of Paris helped launch an international poster craze in the late nineteenth century that generated collectors, exhibitions, publications, and a new emphasis on design. The artists of this poster-mad era incorporated new decorative styles, including a fluid art nouveau aesthetic and the dark contour lines, flat areas of color, and angled viewpoints inspired by Japanese woodblock prints.

The vogue reached the United States in the 1890s, stimulated primarily by the publishing industry. When art editor Edward Penfield began designing posters to advertise the monthly issue of Harper’s magazine, he started a trend. Publishers began to hire leading artists and illustrators to produce poster advertising for magazines, books, and newspapers. The aestheticizing influence of the turn of the century crept into the designs of the large commercial lithography companies as well, influencing many forms of advertising.

  Folies-Bergère La Loïe Fuller poster   Miss Ada Rehan poster  
  Click to enlarge image Folies-Bergère La Loïe Fuller
Loïe Fuller
Jules Chéret, 1893
Color lithographic poster
130.2 x 91.9 cm (51 1/4 x 36 3/16 in.)
National Portrait Gallery
  Click to enlarge image Miss Ada Rehan
Ada Rehan
David Allen and Sons Ltd. Lithography Company, 1898
Chromolithographic poster
76.7 x 51.4 cm (30 3/16 x 20 1/4 in.)
National Portrait Gallery; gift of Mr. and Mrs. Leslie J. Schreyer
  Robert Blum poster   Poster Calendar 1897    
  Click to enlarge image Robert Blum’s Great Decorative Painting in January Scribner’s
Robert Blum
William Sergeant Kendall, 1895
Color relief poster with halftone
43.9 x 31.9 cm (17 5/16 x 12 9/16 in.)
National Portrait Gallery; gift of Leslie, Judith, and Gabri Schreyer and Alice Schreyer Batko
  Click to enlarge image Poster Calendar 1897
Edward Penfield
Self-portrait, 1896
Color lithograph
35.6 x 25.7 cm (14 x 10 1/8 in.)
National Portrait Gallery
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