Images of the Future: The Best of Art Deco Posters
The art of Art Deco posters lives on as an enduring legacy of the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. Today, we see the beautiful and forward thinking posters as vintage and reproduction pieces. Below, I'll walk you through some of the most well known posters and provide some resources to furnish your space with these pieces.
When the Art Deco style first appeared in America, the world was going through rapid changes. Mass-production was in full swing. Skyscrapers were beginning to appear in cities. Everything looked shinier and more elegant than ever before.
At the same time, World War I had just ended and soldiers were returning home, bringing with them tales of exotic Asian and African cultures. Many of these soldiers were artists, designers and architects who were excited to incorporate the influence of foreign cultures into their own work.
Americans and Europeans were excited to celebrate a period of peace and prosperity. Urban centers were swelling with a sense of luxury. Even amidst the economic depression that plagued rural citizens, city-dwellers looked forward to a future of increased technological advancement.
The art and design of the time reflect this optimistic mindset. Looking at Art Deco advertisement posters, we are able to get a glimpse into the values and pleasures of the time.
It’s interesting to consider how these ads, produced nearly a century ago, still maintain a classic elegance today.
Fritz Lang Poster
There may be no artist whose work better illustrates the values of the Art Deco period than Fritz Lang. The filmmaker produced the slickest, most futuristic pieces of cinema that anyone had seen at the time. This poster, advertising his film “Frau Im Mond” (or “Woman on the Moon”) depicts a rocket blasting off into space. Considering that space travel was still decades away, this was quite forward-thinking.
Empire State Building
America’s blossoming cities were a sign of technological progress and increasing wealth in the west. The Empire State Building is somewhat of a poster child (excuse the pun) for the Art Deco movement. It is purposefully designed in an ornate and futuristic way to represent economic growth.
Canadian Pacific Railways
The World’s Fair was an extremely important event during the earliest part of the 20th century. Held every five years, the event gave entrepreneurs a chance to gather and show off their latest innovations. This poster is an advertisement for Canadian Pacific Railways, a passenger train that transported attendees too and from the fair.
20th Century Limited
Passenger trains were a big deal during the first part of the century. They enabled citizens to travel freely (and relatively quickly) throughout the country. This poster advertises for the 20th Century Limited, a train that carries passengers from New York to Chicago.
A Night at the Circus
With the advent of machinery, middle-class people were no longer required to work for 12-14 hours each day. People had much more leisure time. They’d often spend their nights and afternoons attending parties and shows. This poster advertises “A Night at the Circus”.
Similar to railroad technology, boats were becoming more and more sophisticated over time. Large steamships were often used as venues for luxurious parties thrown by the upper classes. The SS Normandie, seen above, was (and still is) the largest steamship ever built. It was originally used to transport immigrants but would later be used as a party boat during prohibition.
Vogue Magazine Cover
Vogue Magazine is known for its contributions to the Art Deco movement. Although the publication started in 1892, it began to take off during the post-WWI period. The cover seen here exemplifies the noir-ish quality of much Art Deco fashion. We can also see the Asian influence of the movement in the sleek, organic shapes and the inclusion of the fan.
Lipton’s Tea Advertisement
Consumer goods were a staple of the period. As manufacturers ramped up their production processes, they also put more money into advertising. This Lipton’s Tea advertisement depicts people from several different cultures mingling at a party. The ad conveys a sense of leisure and elegance.