"Art and Advertising": Publishers' Posters Now On Exhibit in the Kempner Gallery June 25-August 29, 2003

NEW YORK, June 25, 2003 The Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Columbia University is showing a selection of art posters and magazines from its Engel Collection in the Kempner Gallery. Free and open to the public, the exhibition is on display until August 29, 2003. The posters date from the late 19th to the early 20th century and were commissioned by American publishers to advertise and promote books, magazines, and small literary and art periodicals.

Edward Penfield Poster Calendar 1897

The vivid colors and appealing compositions of these chromolithographs and woodcuts are outstanding examples of popular poster art of the era, contributing to a robust but short-lived poster craze at the turn of the 20th century. Several examples of magazines of the era by and for poster enthusiasts are also on display, including volumes of Poster Lore, Poster and Art Collector, and Modern Art.

Posters in this exhibition include the early work of young artists who went on to achieve artistic acclaim such as Edward Penfield, Aubrey Beardsley, Will Bradley, Maxfield Parrish, and Frederic Remington. Other artists, such as Blanche McManus, Florence Lundborg, and E.B. Bird, whose equally brilliant work is shown, fell into obscurity after an unprecedented demand for commercial poster art subsided by about 1910.

The posters display a wide range of artistic styles from European poster art to Japanese woodblock prints. Artists were inspired by the rugged landscapes and characters of the American West; the metropolitan East; nature; mythology; and the adventuresome subjects of the popular books and magazines for which they were commissioned.

Some posters are displayed with their corresponding book or magazine, with some pairs nearly identical in design, and others complementing each other. In many cases, the same artist was commissioned to design both a book and its poster. A few posters – true to the nature of advertising – outshine their print counterparts with showy brilliance.

The Rare Book and Manuscript Library, located on the 6th Floor East of the Columbia University Butler Library, at 535 West 114th Street at Broadway, New York, is home to over 600,000 rare books, 28 million manuscripts filed in 3,000 separate collections, 75,000 photographs, and 40,000 prints and drawings. In addition to printed and manuscript resources, the library contains cuneiform tablets, papyri, maps, works of art, posters, sound recordings and other interesting objects and materials. The Library's web site with collections and service information is:

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06/25/03 JD