Maxfield Parrish, The Century, 1897.
Maxfield Parrish, The Century, 1897, promised gift of Dan Bergsvik and Don Hastler.

The Art of Reading

American Publishing Posters of the 1890s

Nov 16, 2019 – Jun 21, 2020

Main Building, Floors LL, Gallery LL1

The artistic poster first flourished in the United States in the 1890s. Initially following design trends pioneered in Europe, American artists soon created their own unique style. Magazines were among the first to adopt this new form of advertising, employing outstanding designers such as Will Bradley, Edward Penfield, and Maxfield Parrish to advertise periodicals including Harper’s, Lippincott’s, and The Century. The posters were produced using color lithography, allowing artists to create powerful designs with bold color that married original art with advertising. Posters were placed in bookshops and on newsstands to entice readers to purchase books and magazines, but soon the artistic posters became more popular than the work they advertised. A brief but intense period of “poster mania” swept the country before dying out just as quickly. This exhibition features original posters, magazine covers, and book covers from this exciting chapter of design, artistic, and literary history.

The exhibition is largely drawn from the collection of Daniel Bergsvik and Donald Hastler, who have promised their distinguished collection of American and international posters to the Portland Art Museum.

This exhibition is organized by the Portland Art Museum and curated by Mary Weaver Chapin, Ph.D., Curator of Prints and Drawings. It is supported in part by the Vivian and Gordon Gilkey Endowment for Graphic Art and the Exhibition Series Sponsors.