Poster Printing Pioneers: Icons in the Early 20th Century

During the 20th century, poster printing emerged as a powerful means of communication and advertising. As society embraced modernity, advancements in printing techniques paved the way for a generation of poster artists who revolutionised this art form. 

These poster printing trailblazers created timeless, groundbreaking designs that continue inspiring artists. The advancements allow us even to print posters online because of these pioneers. 

Photo by Yonghyun Lee on Unsplash

1. Jules Chéret, The Pioneer of Modern Posters


Jules Chéret is widely recognised as the founding figure of posters. Born in 1836 in Paris, France, Chérets lithographic posters, vibrant with colour, rapidly gained popularity. His innovative approach to colour poster printing brought a dynamic style to the medium. Chéret’s posters often showcased scenes with women promoting theatres, dance halls and various forms of entertainment.


Chéret’s success can be attributed not only to his talent but also his astute business sense. He established a printing company dedicated to producing posters, ensuring the distribution and popularity of his designs. His ability to blend artistry with success laid the groundwork for future poster designers.


2. Alphonse Mucha, The Maestro of Elegance


Alphonse Mucha, an artist from Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic), rose to prominence during the 19th century with his distinct Art Nouveau style. Mucha’s posters were known for their lines, flowing shapes, and decorative elements. The use of colours and natural patterns by Mucha created an atmosphere of sophistication and beauty.


One of Mucha’s pieces is “Gismonda,” a poster he designed for the famous actress Sarah Bernhardt. This masterpiece brought Mucha into the limelight and established him as a leading figure in the field of poster design. Muchas’s ability to capture his subjects’ essence with grace and style made him an icon of the century.


3. Lucian Bernhard, The Messenger 

Lucian Bernhard, a designer from Germany, focused on creating posters that conveyed their message with simplicity. Bernhard’s minimalist approach, known as the “poster style” or Plakatstil, revolutionised advertising during the 1900s. His designs featured letters and uncomplicated graphics that were instantly recognisable and memorable.


One of Bernhard’s prominent works is his 1906 poster for Priester matches. The word “Priester” was boldly spelt out in letters against a background, making the poster an immediate success and setting new standards in modern advertising.


4. A.M. Cassandre, Avant-Garde Poster Artist

A.M. Cassandre was an artist who fully embraced the avant-garde movement that emerged in the early 20th century. Through his posters, he skillfully merged Cubism, Futurism and Surrealism elements to craft captivating compositions that provoke thought. What sets Cassandre apart from his contemporaries is his use of shapes, innovative typography and vibrant colours.


One of Cassandre’s significant creations is his poster for the SS Normandie ocean liner in 1932. This design showcased aesthetics and employed a dramatic perspective to effectively convey the ship’s speed and luxuriousness, perfectly capturing the essence of the Art Deco era. By blending artistic movements with commercial design, Cassandre established himself as a pioneer in poster printing.

5. Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, Bringing Illustrations to Life

In contrast to poster pioneers who focused primarily on advertising purposes, Henri de Toulouse Lautrec approached poster design with an artistic mindset. As a painter and lithographer, Toulouse Lautrec aimed to inform through his posters and saw them as standalone works of art.


Toulouse Lautrec’s posters often depicted scenes from nightlife brilliantly capturing the vibrant energy and unique ambience within cabarets and theatres. With his brushwork and rich palette, he brought a sense of motion and emotion to his artwork, transforming the poster into a masterpiece.


These trailblazers in the field of poster printing have left a mark on the realms of design and art. Their innovative approaches, daring styles and creative vision continue to serve as a wellspring of inspiration for modern-day poster designers. As we commemorate their contributions, we must acknowledge their role in shaping the dynamic and lively world of poster printing during the early 20th century.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked as *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.