A Golden Age of Poster Design: Magazine Posters from the 1890s

Posted by on Jul 7, 2017 in Art Around Us | No Comments
The Century, Edward Potthast, 1896, Lithograph.

The Century, Edward Potthast, 1896,

Yesterday I visited an exhibit at Portland’s Pittlock Mansion, A Golden Age of Poster Design: Magazine Posters from the 1890s. This locally owned collection features lithographic posters created to promote magazines like Harper’s Monthly, The Century and Lippencotts.

Before the 1890’s posters were expensive to produce. But new lithographic printing methods made color printing affordable for magazine publishers.

These posters were placed in bookseller’s windows to promote magazine sales. Publishers soon discovered that people were interested in the posters for their artistic appeal. Thus a poster collecting fad began.

This exhibit features posters created by Maxfield Parrish, Edward Potthast, J.J. Gould Jr. and others. Some of these illustrators were employed by the publishers and others were “winners” of poster competitions.

Edward Penfield, Harpers

Harper’s August, Tom Sawyer Detective,
1896, Lithograph.

Artists were influenced by Art Nouveau, Japanese prints, Arts and Crafts movement. The design of the posters usually used fluid lines, flat colors areas and simple typography — usually only the magazine title and issue were shown.

I remember studying and loving these artists’ works while taking Art History classes in college. I know they’ve influenced my illustration style on some of the projects I’ve worked on.

Visit this poster exhibit at the Pittlock Mansion
3229 NW Pittock Dr
Portland, Oregon 97210

A design that needs study is not a poster no matter how well it is executed.”
— Edward Penfield

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