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Perspectives In Circulation

Glorious Graphics

A generous gift from Poster House Museum

Oct 19, 2022

Cassandre ship atop a staircase

Watson Library receives hundreds of generous gifts annually from individuals, galleries, museums, and institutions, significantly enhancing our holdings in many areas of art history. In June, the library received a generous gift of over one hundred monographs, exhibition catalogs, and yearbooks on international poster art from New York City’s Poster House, the first poster museum in the United States. The gift includes books on poster art from the nineteenth century to today that were published in countries throughout the world such as China, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

The images below capture a part of Poster House’s gift, which represents the graphic art of well-known designers such as A.M. Cassandre and Toulouse-Lautrec, as well as lesser known, current artists. The gift also covers a wide range of subjects ranging from politics and sports to magic, film, and travel.

The Poster House gift has enhanced our already strong collection on this subject, specifically on modern and contemporary graphic design. We are grateful for their generous donation, which has been cataloged and is accessible through Watsonline, our library catalog.

Cover with train crossing a bridge

Beverley Cole, Railway Posters 1923–1947 (Rizzoli International Publication, 1992). Cover: Detail from “The Coronation Crossing the Royal Border Bridge” poster by Tom Purvis (1937)

Published by the National Railway Museum in York, England, this comprehensive catalog explores the classic era of the railway poster in Britain from 1923 to 1947 and features posters from The Great Western Railway, The Sothern Railway, The London Midland & Scottish Railway and The London & North Eastern Railway. The poster subjects include vibrant and picturesque illustrations of trains, landscapes, beaches, and the resorts and towns covered by each railway company's network.

Stylized tropical beach scene

Annie Vontry Jean-Marc Levet, A Vendre: Affiches Immobilieres (Paris: Elina-Sofedism, 1992)

Above is another colorful book of posters, featuring real estate posters from the collection of Jean-Marc Levet, a property manager in Paris. They are dated between 1800 and 1999 and represent over ninety French cities including Argenteuil, Bordeaux, Nice, Orleans, and Paris. The posters advertise regions, housing estates, seaside resorts, hotels, architecture, and housing fairs.

Black cover with image of Thai poster in center

Gilbert Brownstone, Affiches de Cinema thaï = Thai Movie Posters (Paris: Chene, 1974)

Poster House’s gift also includes comprehensive books on cinema billboards. The above catalog, which includes texts in English, French, and Thai, is the first book on cinema advertisements in Thailand. In his introduction, author Gilbert Brownstone writes of Thai movie posters: “immediate comprehension is primordial and the images are selected for their resemblance to something else, a subconscious image.”

Other catalogs in Poster House’s gift represent a wide range of international graphic design.

3 Dutch posters

Genkendelsens Glæde: Danske Plakat Klassikere 1900–1988 (Arhus: Den Gamle By, 2010)

The above exhibition catalog traces the development of Danish Posters from the collection of the Dansk Plakatmuseum, which holds four hundred posters from forty classic designers including Aage Rasmussen (1913–1975) and Ib Antoni (1929–1973). The bright and cheery catalog also includes contemporary graphics such as Per Arnoldi’s (1941–) iconic railway posters, Finn Nygaard’s (1955–) jazz posters, and Mikael Witte's (1952–) famous pig pumped with penicillin poster.

Cover and image of woman

Izz al-Dīn Qalaq, L'Affiche palestinienne: collection d'Ezzeddine Kalak  (Paris: Le Sycomore, 1979)

This rare Palestinian catalog is a compendium of posters from the late 1960s and 1970s from the collection of Ezzedine Kalak (1936–1978). Kalak was the first Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) representative in France. He was assassinated in 1978. He collected hundreds of Palestinian political posters and had planned to dedicate a museum to his collection. The catalog is in French with Arabic calligraphy by Hassan Massoud.

Chinese yearbook

Zhao Yan et. al., Bai jin chuang yi 2003: Zhongguo mei shu xue yuan ping mian she ji nian zhan zuo pin ji = Platinum originality 2003: the yearbook of graphic design in China Academy of Art (Hangzhou: Zhongguo mei shu xue yuan, 2003)

The Poster House gift includes several yearbooks which serve as valuable snapshots of graphic design activity at the time they were published. This 2003 yearbook of Chinese design includes over two hundred winning poster designs of the gold, silver, and bronze Platinum Originality award. This is an international competition for graphic design students hosted by the China Academy of Art. The awards are given in “brands and communication design,” “design concept,” and “product design” for clients and manufacturers worldwide, including Bolivia, Nepal, Estonia, and South Africa. The cheerful cover was designed by Yu Jiadi.

Cover and two inside spread with posters

He Jianping, Entwicklungsgeschichte des Plakates in China: Anfang 10. Jahrhundert bis Ende Kulturrevolution (Berlin: Hesign, 2012)

Another book on Chinese poster design, Entwicklungsgeschichte des Plakates in China, is an in-depth survey that traces the development of the poster in China from the early 10th century to the end of the Cultural Revolution. The subjects explored are advertising posters, New Year posters, calendar art, and propaganda posters. Commercial posters often featured glamorous women, such as the above well-known Coca-Cola poster (circa 1936) that helped promote the image that drinking Coke is sophisticated and modern. The author is a German-Chinese graphic designer, professor, and publisher who studied graphic design at the China Academy of Art.

Cover featuring 6 posters

Katalog plakatu studenckiego: Na Podstawie Zbioru Plakatów-afiszy Zgromadzonego w Archiwum Centralnego Ośrodka w Poznaniu (Poznań: Centralny Ośrodek Informacji i Analiz Studenckiego Ruchu Kulturalnego, 1983)

This Polish student poster catalog is based on a collection of posters from the archives of the Central Center in Poznań. From the 1960s through the 1980s—with a focus on the 1970s—the posters cover a broad range of topics including fine art, film, jazz, theater, music, literature, festivals, and student clubs.

Cover and inside spread featuring 3 posters

Būf-i kūr, namāyishgāh-i tāypugirāfī: rang-i panjum (Tihrān: Intishārāt-i Yasāvulī, 2003)

Būf-i kūr was the first typography exhibition showing the Iranian graphics of the design group "The 5th Color" in association with the Iranian Graphic Designers Society (IGDS) in Tehran. The exhibit was organized in honor of the 100th anniversary of Sadeq Hedayat (1903-1951), an Iranian writer and translator best known for his novel, The Blind Owl, which in Iranian is Bouf-e kour, giving the show its title. The catalog, in Persian and English, features the designs of forty artists who were tasked with creating a work with Persian letters based on Hedayat or one of his books. The exhibition was held in 2003 at Seyhoun Gallery, a forty-year-old gallery in Tehran.

Cassandre ship atop a staircase

A. M. Cassandre, Masutani Yoko, and Santorī Bijutsukan, Every Face of the Great Master Cassandre (Tokyo: Suntory Museum, 1995)

Poster House’s expansive gift also includes major monographs on key artists, including the above exhibition catalog of A.M. Cassandre held at the Suntory Museum in Japan in 1995. With texts in Japanese and English, the subject of the comprehensive exhibit is Cassandre’s works between 1901–1968 and includes an essay describing his influence on Japanese graphic design. The catalog is filled with his dynamic art deco poster images, many full page, including the iconic Normandie, Nord Express, and Dubonnet posters, as well as original drawings of the Dubonnet characters such as the Skater, Tennis Player, Marathon Runner, and Smoking Man. The comprehensive catalog also includes photographs of his advertising posters on the boulevards of Paris, on a delivery van, and at Sherbourg Station in the 1920s and 1930s.

Click here to see all the titles we received as part of this gift in Watsonline.

I would like to acknowledge the support of Ken Soehner, Jared Ash and Mirabelle Cohen.

About the contributors

Collections Manager, Acquisitions in Thomas J. Watson Library