CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Affiches 1890-1940

Posters 1890-1940 Exhibition: 27 August - 21 November 2005

Museum information

This autumn, the print room of the Gemeentemuseum will focus on posters from the period between 1890 and 1940. The exhibition is to include work by Toulouse-Lautrec, Toorop, Thorn Prikker, Cassandre, Alons, Schuitema and Zwart.

Although lithography (printing off stone), was invented in the late eighteenth century, it was not used for posters until 1860. It was initially regarded as too expensive for the production of such ephemera and cheaper techniques like wood and metal engraving were preferred. There was no real use of colour or conscious design in these early advertising placards. French painter and graphic artist Jules Chéret was the first person to produce colour lithographs using three separate stones (usually inked up in red, yellow and blue) to enable him to print in any chosen colour. This technique quickly caught on and became extremely popular towards the end of the nineteenth century. Toulouse-Lautrec’s first designs (in around 1890) established the lithographic poster as an artistic discipline in its own right.

By around 1900, Dutch firms were regularly commissioning artists to produce commercial posters for them. The resulting designs generally reflect the style of the artist’s autonomous work. There are good examples by Lebeau, Hynckes, and even Toorop, whose poster designs included one in Art Nouveau style for a life insurance company based in Arnhem. In subsequent decades, a more graphic style emerged. This was partly due to the influence of the French designer A.M. Cassandre, who also worked for Dutch companies in the 1920s. The new style was simpler and more direct. Around 1930, Piet Zwart was one of the first to integrate fragments of photographs and a new “Functional” style of typography into his designs for the Dutch post office and other clients.

The posters in this exhibition are from the collection of the Gemeentemuseum and are all designed by artists whose work is represented in other areas of the museum’s holdings, such as the decorative arts or painting. Posters 1890 – 1940 will use a number of outstanding examples of lithographic posters to illustrate the evolution of the art form.