Poster art first came into existence after the Industrial Revolution in the second half of the 19th century, when it was conceived as – and continues to function as – a means of selling to the willing consumer. Just as products and services change, so too do the posters advertising them, and as such they are by their very nature ephemeral. But as the richness of their designs are often so short-lived, it can be difficult to give them due appreciation as an art form. Fortunately, long-time collector of 20th century posters William W. Crouse made it his mission to prolong their lifespan. This month sees a newly reprinted edition of The Art Deco Poster, by Thames and Hudson, a volume compiling over 300 rare and iconic posters from graphic art’s revered Art Deco era.
Featuring pieces created between the wars by artists such as Marcello Nizzoli, A. M. Cassandre and Lester Beall, each of the posters has been digitally photographed and comes accompanied by a text explaining the sociological and political context of the image. Thematically organised, the book covers topics ranging from aviation through to fashion, and invites not only graphic design aficionados but also ordinary aesthetes to browse through the life and culture of the last century, in pictorial form.
The resulting publication is much more than just a collection of retro posters; it is a history book which takes us on a journey through the 19th century. These forceful images capture the mood of the 1920s and early 1930s; they tell the story of Europe’s recovery from a devastating war; they capture the buzz of the jazz era, and touch upon a period in which the world found itself in the midst of an economic depression. The book depicts life in all its facets and does so in absolute style. A study of the golden era of graphic design, the collection is a celebration of a true (and almost forgotten) artform. What a wonderfully uplifting way to start the week.
The Art Deco Poster, published by Thames & Hudson, will be available in paperback from February 23, 2017.