Thursday, May 19, 2011
A retro poster exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art is just what the doctor ordered!
Health for Sale: Posters from the William Helfand Collection, a retro poster exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is some powerful medicine for the retro art enthusiast. The William Helfand collection showing 50 of the nearly 200 medical posters he has given to the museum since 1967, is a walk through advertising in its infancy.
Do not be thrown by the topic. These retro posters are rare gems, and a tribute to the enormous talent of the poster artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
On view are the early days of advertising that sought to sell goods on global scale with the only medium available––the lithographic poster. These artists showed remarkable ingenuity in their use of bold imagery and stunning messages alerting the public about deadly diseases that included (what might now seem humorous) warnings about alcohol abuse and the sex orgies resulting from the evils of marijuana use––dating way back to 1936. Who knew cannabis would become medically legal in scattered states throughout our country providing orgies for glaucoma patients everywhere 75 years later!
Included in the presentation are works by the famous poster designer Jules Cherét––a contemporary of Toulouse-Lautrec. Cherét might be overlooked with Lautrec’s popularity, and could be considered a father of the lithographic poster (see Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec guru of the modern poster? September 20, 2010 entry). His posters are colorful free-flowing compositions that could be considered the first form of outdoor advertising ever.
Advertisements for pharmacies and medical conferences can be seen in Chinese, French, Hungarian, Italian, Czech, English, and there’s even a poster promoting Bayer aspirin in––of all things––Indonesian. You might even want to walk away with the fully illustrated publication provided that sheds light on the history behind these well conceived posters that worked sales around the globe with nothing more than bold imagery and powerful text.
The show runs through July 31 and is free with admission to the museum.