A Lofty Guide to Posters: 10 Tips for Posh Prints


As an art connoisseur, you may hesitate when it comes to buying posters. Will the art gods judge a reproduction? What’s the difference between a fine art print and a poster? In this context, we think posters get a bad rep. They are actually a great way to enjoy famous artwork at an affordable rate and, depending on your tastes, vintage posters can be great investments. So, before you turn up that art snob nose, here are ten things to know about posters that may change your mind and inspire a new interest.

1. Paris is credited as the birthplace of the poster market, dating back to the Belle Époque era (1871 to 1917).
With the invention of large-scale, color lithography, artists had a new means to mass market their work and business saw a new way to advertise. Nineteenth-century artists such as Jules Chéret and Leonetto Cappiello became famous through their designs and posters became the new art of communication.

2. A poster is a print, but not all prints qualify as posters.
Posters are about mass communication whether through graphic advertisements or reproductions of original artwork. They are open editions with a number usually determined by a marketing need. In contrast, fine art prints are often numbered and signed, and they are always produced in limited quantities.

3. Nonetheless, a poster can be an excellent investment depending on how rare it is, who designed it, and what condition it’s in at the time of purchase.
There was once a quirky, little Frenchman who produced many a poster for a little place called the Moulin Rouge. His name was Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and there is quite a market for his original work.

banner2 Images (From Left to Right:) Camille Bouchet, Cognac Jacquet, printed ca. 1925; Hart Schaffner Adverising Poster, circa 1920s; David Hockney, Parade, Metropolitan Opera New York (Baggott 94), 1981


4. If you’re interested in the market of vintage posters, get online and get researching!
The International Vintage Poster Dealers Association (IVPDA) is a great place to start. The site lists many reputable dealers and can provide information on upcoming auction sales or poster art fairs.

5. There may not be a layaway plan for an original work of art, so turn your attention to reproductions!
Reproductions are a great way to enjoy famous artwork from a purely aesthetic point of view. For affordable, high quality art reproductions of all styles and eras, check out www.allposters.com and www.art.com. They regularly offer great sales on popular prints and you may even discover exciting, lesser-known works from your favorite artists. You can also find reproductions of popular film and movie posters. Long live Elvis!

6. Some of the most famous posters of all time are still popular today due to their strong statements and timeless style.
These include Britain’s motivational poster, Keep Calm and Carry On originally designed in 1939, and Lunch Atop a Skyscraper, reproduced from a 1932 photograph taken in New York City by Charles C. Ebbets. Both have been reproduced in a variety of medium, inspiring interpretations of home and determination of each respective nation.

banner10 Images (Left to Right): Exhibition Poster for L’Art Independant, 1937, Petit Palais, Paris, printed by Mourlot; Crowell Bros. Great Mystery Show Poster, printed by the Donaldson Litho Company, early 20th century; Poster for the movie Lolita, Cinemato, Paris, France, 1962

7. Copyright is complicated, making reproductions subject to controversial laws.
Attitudes towards an image’s validity can change drastically after its original release. Case in point: the famous photo of revolutionary Che Guevara; known as Guerrillero Heroico, was taken in 1960 by photographer Alberto Korda; but re-appropriated and mass produced by artists such as Andy Warhol and Jim Fitzpatrick. Initially released as a copyright-free image to inspire other revolutionary propaganda, the image’s commercial release arguably diluted its original purpose and is now the subject of many an art law debate. Fitzpatrick wants the copyright of his rendition given to Guevara’s heirs. Socialist scholars argue that the image should remain available to the masses. And for now, it does.

8. Regrading production, posters typically come in standard sizes
16 x 20, 18 x 24, 20 x 30, 22 x 28, and 24 x 36. Movie posters usually scale at 27 x 41. These are helpful to note if you’re intending to frame a poster as most of these sizes can be accommodated with standard frames.

9. If you’re especially artistic, try designing and printing your own poster.
Find a high quality printer such as Duggal Vision Solutions in NYC and choose a sturdy, smooth paper like 100 lb. paper gloss or matte or 10 pt. cardstock gloss or mate. Programs like Adobe Photoshop and InDesign are great to set up the size and scale.

10. Mix it up!
Posters are another art medium and can add a richness to any collection, so hang them with a range of wall art. Who doesn’t want to see a Mona Lisa hanging next to the 1917 US Army’s Recruitment poster? image the dialogue between those two! Dinner party tête-à-têtes will never be the same.

Featured Image (From Left to Right:)Henri Matisse, Nice, Travail et Joie, lithographic poster, printed by Mourlot, Paris, 1947; Joan Miró, Exhibition for “Terres de Grand Feu”, Galerie Maeght, Paris, 1956; Jean Dubuffet, Exhibition Poster for “Painted Sculptures”, Pace Gallery, New York, 1968; Barbados Travel Poster, mid-20th century