Toulouse-Lautrec and the Poster around 1900
Around 1900, the poster was not only established as an effective advertising medium, it was also widely recognized as a new art form. The founding of numerous societies for poster art attests to the rampant “affichomanie” or “poster frenzy” of the time. Artists created posters to advertise any imaginable product: from coffee, tobacco, and automobiles to exhibitions, journals, and cabaret performances. To be effective amid the visual noise of city streets, posters needed to capture the gaze from a distance and convey their meaning at a glance. The best-known master of this art was presumably Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who took inspiration from Japanese woodcuts as well as artist such as Edgar Degas and Édouard Manet to render his motifs to great effect, with bold lines, cropped views, and unusual perspectives.
The poster first caught on in France in the 1860s and reached its height of popularity around thirty years later. While French poster artists were known for their racy images, artists like Alfons Mucha and Gustav Klimt drew on classical antiquity for the designs of their advertising posters. The launch of journals such as Pan, Jugend, and Simplicissimus boosted the evolution of new stylistic varieties in poster art, from ornamental art nouveau to satire and caricature. Posters catered to the aspirations of mass audiences by advertising luxury goods such as automobiles and enlisting the rich and beautiful as publicity icons. Popular characters in the repertoire of advertising included the dandy and the elegant society lady.
In Austria and Germany, the medium initially served mostly to announce exhibitions, as the numerous poster designs for the Vienna Secession illustrate. Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele brought the language of Expressionism to the medium; a famous poster Kokoschka created for the Expressionist journal Der Sturm in 1910 features a provocative self-portrait of the bald-headed and bare-chested artist modeled on the Man of Sorrows tradition. Another tendency that emerged around the same time focused on sober-minded depictions of objects, foregrounding the product as such: adequacy to the promotional purpose trumped creative ambition. After World War I, poster design increasingly became the province of advertising specialists, and artists largely abandoned the medium. Effective visual communication, however, remained essential to the poster’s function as the leading advertising medium in the age of mass consumerism.
This exhibition is held in cooperation with the Sprengel Museum, Hannover.
Curator: Beatrice von Bormann, Head of Collection, Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Assistant Curator: Barbara Herzog, Museum der Moderne Salzburg
In conjunction with the exhibition a catalogue is published.
Kindly supported by progress and Out of Home Austria