WHEN AND WHERE WERE THE FIRST POSTERS CREATED?
Billboard advertising is as old as civilization. In Medieval times, broad sheets were posted to announce government edicts and festivals. These posters, however, were crudely executed and possessed little artistic merit.
The first artistic color posters appeared in the second half of the 19th Century when commercial advertising as an art form was born.
Jules Cheret, lithographic innovator and advertising genius, established himself as ‘father of the poster’ with the artistic rendering, ‘Orphee aux Enfers’, printed in 1858.
HOW WERE THE FIRST POSTERS CREATED?
Most of the posters of the grand French period were lithographs produced on stones. Stone lithography is based on the natural repellency of oil to water.
A greased pencil was used to draw the image on the stone. The stone was then watered down, ink was applied and the poster paper was placed on top. The image was thereby transferred to the paper, different stones being used for each additional color.
HOW MANY COPIES OF EACH POSTER WERE CREATED AND HOW MANY REMAIN?
The exact number of posters printed in any given run is unknown but experts estimate somewhere between 500 and 1,000 copies of each were produced. In serving their original purpose as advertisement, most posters were plastered to walls and thus destroyed.
A few posters, however, were collected by foresighted individuals who appreciated their beauty and anticipated their future value. Many of these pre World War works survived in either large private collections, were part of the collection of the original lithographer’s company or were the property of the artist’s family.
WHAT IS AN ORIGINAL POSTER?
Remembering that the primary purpose of the poster was advertisement, an original poster is one that was printed for that use. It must also have been printed at the time of the artist and have been pulled from the original lithographic stone.
Antique, as it refers to this bygone era of artistic poster creation, is generally assumed to be anything over 50 years of age.
HOW ARE THE POSTERS MOUNTED?
The paper on which the posters are printed is relatively fragile. Mounting the posters on an acid-free canvas adds both additional strength and stability to the medium. This linen backing is applied with a special adherent of water soluble wheat-based glue.
HOW CAN ONE TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN ORIGINAL AND A REPRODUCTION?
Sometimes only an expert can tell the difference. Generally, however, the quality of the paper, the printing technique, the choice of colors and other unique characteristics of a poster prove the authenticity of the original.
HOW IS THE VALUE OF A POSTER DETERMINED?
The poster’s value is first determined by the subject matter and/or the popularity of the artist. The rarity of the poster and of course its condition determine final value.
WHAT DISTINGUISHES A POSTER AS ART?
The unique combination of type and image for the explicit purpose of advertisement set posters apart from other art.