The Poster

Art, Advertising, Design, and Collecting, 1860s–1900s

Ruth E. Iskin

The Poster: Art, Advertising, Design, and Collecting, 1860s–1900s is a cultural history that situates the poster at the crossroads of art, design, advertising, and collecting. Though international in scope, the book focuses especially on France and England. Ruth E. Iskin argues that the avant-garde poster and the original art print played an important role in the development of a modernist language of art in the 1890s, as well as in the adaptation of art to an era of mass media. She moreover contends that this new form of visual communication fundamentally redefined relations between word and image: poster designers embedded words within the graphic, rather than using images to illustrate a text. Posters had to function as effective advertising in the hectic environment of the urban street. Even though initially commissioned as advertisements, they were soon coveted by collectors. Iskin introduces readers to the late nineteenth-century “iconophile”—a new type of collector/curator/archivist who discovered in poster collecting an ephemeral archaeology of modernity. Bridging the separation between the fields of art, design, advertising, and collecting, Iskin’s insightful study proposes that the poster played a constitutive role in the modern culture of spectacle.

This stunningly illustrated book will appeal to art historians and students of visual culture, as well as social and cultural history, media, design, and advertising.

E-book: $39.99 | Paper: $50
ISBN-13: 9781611686173
Date Published: October 7, 2014


  • Iskin navigates a multitude of artists, locations, and cultural and artistic discourses with dexterity. She has written a towering monument to an oft-neglected subject, which should stand as a model of inquiry into ephemeral visual culture for generations of print historians.

    Sarah C. Shaefer
    Art in Print
  • This work is by far the most thorough, comprehensive, and exhaustive title available on this topic covering this period. It is an excellent choice for any student of history or of art history. It has particular appeal to students studying graphic design history within the context of the poster and within the era noted in the subtitle. The author's study of the topic and bountiful coverage of the interplay between design and the evolution of advertising is superb. The writing style is analytical and detailed; it includes the history, people, process, and more. A great deal of information is provided to the collector as well. . . . Highly recommended.

  • The Poster is a beautifully illustrated, and nicely crafted, cultural history of the late nineteenth-century art poster. It is principally concerned with Paris and with France, and it is on this terrain that it is at its strongest. Iskin’s command of the material, both primary and secondary, on fin-de-siècle Paris is excellent, and the book develops a number of fruitful arguments.

    Journal of the History of Collections
  • The Poster [is] delightfully filled with little nuggets of the history of this era and its affichomanie that broadened and enriched my understanding of its transformative energy.

    Design and Culture
  • With this multiplicity of characteristics subordinated to the grand theme of the poster, this publication is well worth reading, giving you the opportunity to revisit all these ‘places’. At the end, you will not want to close the book, but will want to continue with other narratives that we hope will be brought out in the near future by Ruth E. Iskin.

    The Poster
  • A landmark in art historical studies . . . Richly illustrated, international in scope, interdisciplinary in methodology, Iskin’s study constitutes a splendid resource and proposes a valuable methodology for future scholarship.

    Patricia Mainardi
    professor emerita of art history, City University of New York
  • Iskin combines a scholar’s erudition with the appreciation of a collector in this definitive study of the poster. . . . Her story of the embrace of the poster by audiences, critics, and collectors alike permanently invalidates our old ideas regarding modernism, in favor of modernity’s rich, colorful, and complex palette.

    Vanessa Schwartz
    director of the Visual Studies Research Institute, University of Southern California
  • In this clearly written, attractively produced, and consistently surprising work, Ruth Iskin for the first time gives the illustrated poster of the Belle Époque the comprehensive attention it deserves.

    Daniel J. Sherman
    professor of art history, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Iskin’s lively and compelling book…demonstrates that the poster was a powerful agent of the visual cultural of modernity and captures the excitement as well as the fear the poster aroused.

    Mary Chapin
    curator of graphic arts, Portland Art Museum
  • This is a study that places the poster at the center of debates on modernity in the second half of the nineteenth century. Crossing the boundaries of fine art and advertising, painting and popular culture, it is a subtle and innovative cultural history of poster art that sets the standard for future studies.

    Lynda Nead
    Pevsner Chair of History of Art, Birkbeck College, University of London

About the Author

Ruth E. Iskin

Ruth E. Iskin books include Modern Woman and Parisian Consumer Culture in Impressionist Painting (Cambridge University Press, 2007; Chinese edition 2010) and The Poster: Art Advertising and collecting, 1860-1900 (Dartmouth College, 2014). She is the editor of Re-envisioning the Contemporary Art Canon: Perspectives in a Global world (Routledge, 2016), and co-editor of Collecting Prints, Posters and Ephemera (Bloomsbury, 2019).

Author of Selling, …

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