The Modern Poster

The history of modern posters is one of adaptation and cross-fertilization, as this catalogue of an exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art reveals. Examples from the Museum’s collection clearly demonstrate the power of the modern poster to convey ideas quickly by combining fine and applied art for aesthetic, commercial, and political purposes. In the last century, what we call modern has converged with a maze of styles to produce recognizable genresincluding, poster art. Toulouse-Lautrec borrowed the flat color surfaces and flowing outlines of Japanese prints to produce an almost photojournalistic view of the urban scene. In A. M. Cassandre’s posters of ocean liners and trains, the mechanistic tangle of Fernand Leger’s oils has been transformed into pure icons. In the contemporary commercial posterwhether Japanese, Polish, Dutch, Venezuelan or American innovations in graphic design, abstraction, typography and advertising art are endlessly recombined in pictures mingling wit, inventive imagery and bold color. Works by Klimt, Schiele, Ben Shahn, Man Ray, Warhol, Richard Avedon and scores of less famous artists complement an informative text by Stuart Wrede, director of the museum’s department of architecture and design.

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