American Art Posters of the 1890s

May 22 - August 19, 2018

Eye-catching posters, many advertising periodicals to a burgeoning middle-class readership, proliferated around the turn of the twentieth century. Brightly colored placards promoting sales in bookshop windows and on newsstands swept the country in what was dubbed the “poster craze.” American Art Posters of the 1890s unearthed more than a dozen of these works from the museum’s permanent collection.


Artist-designers transformed the look of the advertising poster during the decade. “A poster should tell its story at once,” insisted Edward Penfield, whose bold designs initiated the poster fad. Penfield, a leading illustrator of the era and the art director at Harper’s, was the central figure of the exhibition. Using large flat areas of color and clear lines, he often depicted aloof men and women reading or carrying a copy of the well-known magazine. The posters of several notable peers, including William H. Bradley, William Carqueville, and Ethel Reed, accompanied those of Penfield.


Organized by the Palmer Museum of Art.