News | February 24, 2024

The Art of the Literary Poster

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Art of the Literary Poster book cover

A new Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition and book will explore late 19th century American literary posters, a vibrant genre at the vanguard of modern commercial art and graphic design.

The Art of the Literary Poster by Allison Rudnick will be published next month in association with the museum’s exhibition of literary posters from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection which runs March 7 – June 11.

Spurred by innovations in printing technology, the modern poster emerged in the 1890s as a popular form of visual culture in the United States. Created by some of the best-known illustrators and graphic designers of the period, including Will H. Bradley, Florence Lundborg, Edward Penfield, and Ethel Reed, these advertisements for books and high-tone periodicals such as Harper’s and Lippincott’s went beyond the realm of commercial art, incorporating bold, stylized imagery and striking typography.

The book, based on the Leonard A. Lauder Collection and published March 26, explores the craze for literary posters which became sought-after collectibles even in their day. It offers new scholarly perspectives that address the aesthetic sophistication and modernity of the literary poster; the impact of early experiments in the field of advertising psychology; the expanded opportunities for women artists, who played an important role in advancing the so-called poster style; and the printmaking techniques that artists employed in this novel art form. 

It features contributions from Jennifer A. Greenhill (Professor of American Art at the University of Arkansas), Rachel Mustalish (Conservator in Charge of the Department of Paper Conservation at The Met), Shannon Vittoria (assistant curator in the American Wing at The Met), as well as Allison Rudnick, associate curator in the Department of Drawings and Prints at The Met.