Poster portrait of Bette Midler

Bette Midler (detail) by Richard Amsel / Color photolithographic poster, 1973 / National Portrait Gallery; gift of Jack Rennert / © Richard Amsel

Ballyhoo! Posters as Portraiture

May 9, 2008 - February 8, 2009

Featuring sixty pieces ranging in date from the late nineteenth century to the present, this exhibition demonstrated how posters function as portraiture. Subjects as diverse as General Pershing, "Buffalo Bill" Cody, Joe Louis, Judy Garland, aviator Jimmy Doolittle and labor leader Lane Kirkland all enhance the poster's mission to attract attention and persuade. Dramatic, colorful and often enormous, these likenesses hardly seem subtle. But what a poster communicates about an individual is usually secondary to its principal message—selling war bonds, announcing the arrival of the circus, advertising a product, or publicizing a concert or film. Posters invariably project the public image, enhancing, promoting, exploiting, or upgrading the information we subconsciously absorb about celebrity figures.

  • Ballyhoo! Posters as Portraiture

    View of "Ballyhoo! Posters as Portraiture." Photo by Mark Gulezian. 

  • Ballyhoo! Posters as Portraiture

    View of "Ballyhoo! Posters as Portraiture." Photo by Mark Gulezian. 

  • Ballyhoo! Posters as Portraiture

    View of "Ballyhoo! Posters as Portraiture." Photo by Mark Gulezian. 

  • Ballyhoo! Posters as Portraiture

    View of "Ballyhoo! Posters as Portraiture." Photo by Mark Gulezian.