Posters and prints enjoy a number of obvious similarities. For example, both are multiples, which simply means that more than one version of the image exists, and posters and prints are often produced using the exact same techniques. In the case of a poster, though, the edition size is not necessarily fixed or even documented. To make matters more complicated, some of the earliest fine-art etchings and woodblock prints were produced in what are sometimes called “open editions.” Today, however, prints are typically signed and numbered, which is the main reason why prints tend to be more highly valued than posters.
One important difference between the two categories is that many printmaking techniques go back much further than poster technologies such as lithography, which only dates to the late 18th century. Historians believe that woodcutting probably originated in China around the early 9th century. By the 15th century the German engraver Albrecht Dürer was using this ancient technique to create prints of incredible detail.
The rise in advertising during the Victorian Era spurred inventions such as the four-color lithograph, which was used to produce, among other things, appealing images for advertisers. In 1867, Jules Cheret, inspired—perhaps ironically—by Japanese woodcuts, used the newly-developed system to combine text and images into a poster. Soon, European artists like Alphonse Mucha and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec were creating posters combining Art Nouveau aesthetics with easily understandable sales pitches.
American artist Maxfield Parrish used printing techniques to create multiples of his paintings, including “Dreaming,” “Stars,” and “New Moon.” His work was sought out by the fine-art crowd as well as advertisers, who used his blue-hued imagery of beautiful female figures posed in romantic landscapes to sell everything from soap to soda pop.
Throughout the 20th century, fine artists produced limited-edition prints that were often variations of subject matter they focused on in their paintings. The great prewar narrative painter Thomas Hart Benton made both paintings of rural American life as well as lithographs of the same. By the 1960s, artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein were giving equal attention to their prints, if not more.
In parallel, advertisers were producing some of the most sought-after posters of the century, from James Montgomery Flagg’s recruiting lithographs printed in 1917 or Universal Studios’s horror-movie posters from the 1930s. Other collectible posters from the century include political, sports, circus, aviation, and railroad posters.
By the 1960s, music posters were becoming an international phenomenon. In London, Michael English and Nigel Waymouth, working as Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, produced psychedelic updates of Art Nouveau posters for Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, and The Who. In Boston, the owners of a club called Boston Tea Party tended to take a clean, graphic approach to publicize concerts by everyone from local heroes J. Geils Band to New York’s Velvet Underground. Detroit had the Grande Ballroom, whose resident poster artist was Gary Grimshaw and house band was the MC5. Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Dahlgren made posters for a club called the Kaleidoscope, whose posters were always circular...
The U.S. city that’s best known for vintage rock posters, though, is San Francisco. A combination of multiple music venues and lots of talented artists was the catalyst for the vibrant scene. Over at the Avalon Ballroom, Chet Helms hired Wes Wilson, followed by Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley, to make posters for shows featuring The Blues Project, Captain Beefheart, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and the Grateful Dead.
Over at Bill Graham’s Fillmore Auditorium, artist Wes Wilson created posters that helped define the psychedelic lettering style of the day. Another influential artist associated with the San Francisco scene was Rick Griffin, whose February 1968 "Flying Eyeball" poster (BG105) for Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall, and Albert King is an icon of the art form.
What makes music posters so interesting to collectors today is that they have once again blurred the line between posters and prints. Many contemporary music posters, particularly those created for rock bands such as Phish, Pearl Jam, and Dave Matthews, are produced in signed and numbered editions, just like a fine-art print. Some artists such as Jim Pollock, Emek, and Chuck Sperry will see posters they have created for a particular concert appear on eBay the morning after the show for double or triple the price.
This trend continues even with artists whose poster-like prints don’t advertise anything at all. For example, Shepard Fairey, who gained widespread acclaim for the poster he created for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, recently produced a limited-edition print of Muhammad Ali that has proven to be quite popular with collectors.
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Recent News: Posters and Prints
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Ajay Rochester strips to star in video to raise funds for new sexy pin-up calendarDaily Mail, September 28th
In one shot Ajay appears topless covering her modesty with her arms with the words 'every body is beautiful' scrawled across her arms in lipstick. In another image a vintage poster featuring the positive assertion, 'you wouldn't want a steak that as...Read more
Travel: Tuning into the Channel IslandsMilton Keynes Citizen, September 26th
It's a short walk from my hotel, the Duke Of Richmond, a higgledy piggledy collection of rooms in a sparkling, renovated property decorated with vintage poster prints and leopard-print upholstery. It's a signature design for the family-run Red...Read more
Buster Keaton's 'College' opens silent film series at Rogers CenterEagle-Tribune, September 23rd
Buster A vintage poster for 'College' (1927), a silent film comedy starring Buster Keaton to be screened with live music on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014 at 7 p.m. at the Rogers Center for the Arts, on Walsh Way on the campus of Merrimack College, 315 ...Read more
Conjunto legend meets Latino comedy star at Garcia's, naturallymySanAntonio.com (blog), September 19th
All of it taking place right below the autographed vintage poster of the Texas Tornados. “That was awesome, bro,” said Barcena afterwards. “I've always heard of him. He's a legend. Anyone that knows Tex-Mex music knows he is synonymous with that. To me ...Read more
Vintage posters add pop of color, sliver of history to a roomLA Daily News, September 18th
She is a member of the nonprofit International Vintage Poster Dealers Association, which recommends buying posters from reputable dealers who can advise people on what to look for. For instance, posters were printed on cheap paper back then because ...Read more
Mark of a manThe Star Online, September 13th
Independence Bingo (II), 2013, screen print, acrylic on vintage poster. Stephen Menon humanises a national icon through a pop art celebration. Tunku Abdul Rahman is, for Malaysians, synonymous with the country's independence. And while the Bapa ...Read more
Marines pair with ROTC to expand Toys for Tots awareness and collectionSRU The Online Rocket, September 11th
A vintage poster promotes the Marines Corps Toys for Tots program which was started by Col. John Hampton in 1947. Janelle Wilson, Asst. Campus Life Editor September 11, 2014. Butler's Bantam Marine Corps League (BMCL) has paired with the ROTC ...Read more
Michael Tilson Thomas's 20th San Francisco Symphony seasonContra Costa Times, August 31st
In the living room of his eclectic arts-and-crafts-style home in the Cow Hollow neighborhood, which he shares with longtime partner and manager Joshua Robison, there's a vintage poster of his grandmother Bessie Thomashefsky. She was an actor and ...Read more