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Meanwhile, back in Boston the Museum of Fine Arts is running an exhibition called Art in the Street about the golden age of the poster. The show runs until July 21st.

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Posters are linked very closely to the beginnings of graphic – or “commercial” – design itself. At the end of the nineteenth century, with the boom in urban living, several factors came together to give birth the the kind of graphic design we know today. Sepcifically large department stores and mail order firms required advertising to alert potential customers to their goods. At the same time developments in printing, especially lithography, enabled mass printing of colour magazines and posters.

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During this period, the Art Nouveau movement was in fashion and this also helped people to notice posters as many of them were highly attractive. This in turn triggered the craze in collecting posters. They were seen as art for the masses – now everyone could afford to have aesthetically pleasing, and cheap, works of art decorating their houses. Some artists and designers actually saw this as a kind of evangelical movement and strove to create works for ordinary people to look at in order to better themselves. This was part of the general rise in “design for society” or using designs processes, like art and architecture, to improve standards of living.

Several publishers now produced poster magazines, providing special editions monthy for the people to collect. This in turn fuelled the drive for analytical art magazines that also helped graphic design as an entity to develop.

04-academic-association-of-architectsImage credits:

All images courtesy of the MFA Press Office

Top: Etoile du NordAdolphe Jean Marie Cassandre (Mouron) (French (born in Ukraine), 1901–1968)1927Lithography George Peabody Gardner Fund*Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Second to Top: Delftsche Slaolie (Delft Salad Oil)Johannes Theodorus Toorop (Dutch, 1858–1928)1894Color lithograph printed in black and yellow, Lee M. Friedman Fund*Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Middle: Binaca (Toothpaste and Toothbrush)Niklaus Stoecklin, Swiss, 1896–19821941Poster, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston—Henry S. Hacker exchange, made possible through gifts from John T. Spaulding, J. N. Stanley, Horatio Greenough Curtis, Mrs. E. Vietor Frothingham, L. N. Gebhard, Jean Goriany, Dr. Henry M. Putnam, Walter Rowlands, R. Clipston Sturgis, Horace M. Swope, Miss Frances Ellis Turner, bequest of Maxim Karolik, and anonymous gift in memory of John G. Pierce, Sr.* Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Bottom: Academic Association of Architects, Exhibition of Buildings and Homes (Akademisk Arkitektforening, Bygge og Bolligudstilling)Ib Andersen (Danish, 1907–1969)1929Lithography*Museum purchase with funds donated by the friends of Florence S. Gerstein in her memory, Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston