Posters/Canadian Copywriter

Most of us consider "the poster" an advertising medium that was strictly used around the turn of the century. In earlier days, posters were everywhere -- usually pasted to hoarding to announce the latest theatrical production. In most cases, the graphics were poorly conceived and hurredly produced, but sometimes posters were very surprising when drawn by a talented artist such as Aubrey Beardsley or Toulouse LaTrec. Communications are different today, of course, and many of us have tucked the "poster idea" away as a medium whose time has "come and gone". On the other hand, when you take a look around, you might have noticed that posters aren't exactly extinct! In fact, they're on a bit of a comeback in the new millennium. I suspect the romantics among us would believe that their renewed popularity is because they take us back to more halcyonic times, pleasantly reminding us of an era when messages weren't loaded with double entendres or just pure, raw sex. Realistically speaking, however, I suspect the reason for the return of the poster is fuelled by economics. A poster is cheaper to produce than a TV or radio commercial yet it's still a powerful medium -- and, oddly enough its power is found in its restrictions. Since a poster doesn't have room for wordy copy, it relies on a powerful visual coupled with a witty line to capture attention. With this combination, it has the power to seize the imagination of its viewer for a brief, but intense period -- provoking, motivating, making people laugh, gasp, reflect, question, assent, protest, recoil or otherwise react. As I've already said, one of the reasons why the poster has retained its popular appeal is its ease of reproduction. Today, most posters are printed with offset color lithography -- but they can also be screen printed, lino-cut, line-blocked, letter pressed, woodcut or reproduced through simple lithography. A third reason why the poster is still with us today is because of its ease of deployment. Installing a poster is only a matter of owning a simple squeegee and a pot of glue -- and as a result the poster is being seen in places people frequent everyday -- from subways to shops and factories to cinemas -- even on trucks and other conveyances.

Posters are often described as the art gallery of the street, vying for the attention of every passerby. Check out the cool posters by the masters of the art below!



Alphonse Mucha: The Divine Sarah
The red-haired actress Sarah Bernhardt, unwittingly provided the impetus for Alphonse Mucha's poster work that has come to be seen as the essence of Art Nouveau. In late December, 1894, he was asked to produce a poster, within a week, to advertise Ms. Bernhardt's appearance as Gismonda at the Theatre de la Rénaissance in Paris. Mucha sketched Sarah at the theatre where she was starring in Phèdre. Apparently, he didn't have time to finish the bottom half to the same quality as the top half. Who would have noticed?


Frederic Walker: Woman In White One of the more exceptional posters of the late nineteenth century was a poster by the Royal Academician Frederick Walker. The son of a London jeweller, he enjoyed art and from 1860 onwards, his illustrations appeared frequently in the pages of 'Once a Week,' 'Good Words,' and in the Cornhill Magazine. He never found it easy, drawing to order and often struggled with his commissions. In his finest black and white work, Walker is among the very best of the brilliant illustrators of the 1860s.

Toulouse Lautrec:
Toulouse Lautrec's favourite haunts in life were café concerts which encouraged audiences to join in the singing. He was contracted by a café to produce Divan Japonais. Jane Avril is the main subject pictured among a boisterous, but good-natured crowd and the music critic Edouard Dujardin is in the foreground. Yvette Guilbert sings on stage


Ludwig Hohlwein: Richard Strauss Woche

What separated Ludwig Holstein from his contemporaries was the simplicity and power of his images. He was always inspired by sport, racing, and animals but his range of subject-matter in posters and other ephemera was vast.