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Poster Art: Home

Guide to researching poster art at the SVA Library, the SVA Archives, and beyond.

What is poster art?

Posters are generally large sheets of paper placed in a public place to advertise an event or product, convey information, or persuade, such as in activism and propaganda. Early posters date to the late 18th century, and were used mostly as a means to convey public information such as official announcements and by-laws. These posters were mainly textual, printed with wood blocks in large letters, and their layout echoed leaflets of past centuries. With the development of lithography and the printing press, modern posters as we know them came into being around the mid-nineteenth century. Traveling circuses, musicians and others were early adopters of modern poster advertising. By the late 19th century, color posters employed chromolithography to advertise consumer products. The advent of WWI saw posters being used for propaganda to raise money, boost volunteer efforts and provoke outrage. Into the 20th century, the use of posters expanded in advertising, music promotion and activism, which continues today.

Döring, Jürgen, and Tulga Beyerle. The Poster : 200 Years of Art and History. Trans. Philippa Hurd, Ian Pepper, and Sarah Trenker. Hamburg: MK & G, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, 2020. Print.


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Phoebe Stoneking


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Beth Kleber
380 Second Ave, 2nd floor
Subjects: Design

Library Resources

Related Guides

SVA Archives / Glaser Archives

Reinhold Brown Poster Collection

The Reinhold Brown Poster Collection at the SVA Library consists of almost 500 titles on the history of poster design, including many rare, out of print and hard to find titles. The collection was assembled over many years by Susan Reinhold and Robert Brown as reference to support the Reinhold Brown Gallery, the first in New York to specialize in rare 20th century poster art and graphic design. The collection includes a wealth of Art Nouveau and Art Deco material as well as important publications about the Modern poster movement in Poland.

A brief selection of titles from the Reinhold Brown Poster Collection is below. 

Search the catalog to find more:

The History of the Poster

On the Web