vintage poster

The History of the Poster in 5 Facts

In 2017, the poster is a tool commonly used by advertisers to catch the eye and inform, but it has quite a fascinating high art history which we will be exploring today through these five facts.

vintage poster

  1. Modern poster design dates to the mid 19th century

During this period, the printing industry mastered the art of colour lithography which made it possible to mass produce large, inexpensive images, government censorship in public places around Europe was lifted, and advertisers were beginning to market mass produced products in urban areas.

  1. Prior to the 1850s, text based posters were extremely common

Placards and posted bills have been used to advertise events (like Shakespeare’s plays) and announce government proclamations for centuries.

  1.  Poster design attracted many aspiring artists who used it to support themselves

Some of these designers went on to make a reputation for themselves as some of the most successful artists of the 19th and 20th centuries including Édouard Manet, Pablo Picasso, Alphonse Mucha and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec.

  1. During the Belle Époque era, the poster was considered a high art form

By the end of the 19th century, lithograph poster design had spread across Europe and was considered a serious art form. In Paris in 1884, a major poster exhibition was held and the streets of the city were so transformed by the designs that they were dubbed ‘the poor man’s picture gallery’.

  1. Posters weren’t just an advertising tool

By the end of the 19th century, posters were used to advertise everything from bullfights to absinthe but the art form was also adopted as a political tool to spread propaganda in World War One and to voice protests in the 1960s and 1970s.  Other types of posters include educational posters, comic book posters, aspirational posters, pinup posters, band or music posters, travel posters, railway posters and film posters.


1Print offer state of the art online poster printing services for Australian businesses. To learn more about our capabilities, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us by calling 1300 327 471.