National Museum of American Art

Washington, D.C.

(202) 633-8998


Posters American Style

March 27 through August 9, 1998

Frederick Winthrop Ramsdell, American Crescent Cycles, 1899

color lithograph, 65 x 44 inches, Steven Schmidt

Posters American Style is a major survey exhibition presenting 120 posters that address the concerns, issues, events and cultural aspects of American life. Posters explores the rich variety of American poster design during the last 100 years, from the playful circus posters and refined images of the 1890s made to lure magazine readers, to the psychedelic works of the 1960s and protest images of the 1970s, to the new designs of the 1990s. American pastimes and concerns, from sporting events and movie-going to war and elections, are all represented in these persuasive images created to attract attention and elicit strong reactions.

Ethel Reed, Lamson Wolffe and Co., Boston, printed by Heliotype Printing Co., Boston

Folly or Saintliness, 1895, heliotype, 20 1/4 x 14 7/8 inches

National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Gift of Ms. S. Lavine

The exhibition will include examples by some of the best-known American graphic designers and artists, such as Ivan Chermayeff, Robert Rauschenberg, Ben Shahn, Art Chantry and Rockwell Kent, and will heighten viewers' awareness of graphic styles. The posters are drawn from private and public collections throughout the country. Twenty-two are from the museum's growing collection, including important works by Latino artists recreating posters based on their mural tradition, Romare Bearden's poster from the "Poetry on Buses" series, and posters produced in the 1930s by many of the artists associated with the Works Progress Administration.

Unidentified Postermaker, Strobridge Lithographing Company,

The Barnum and Bailey Greatest Show on Earth/Ski Sailing, 1907,

color lithograph, 28 3/4 x 38 11/16 inches, Cincinnati Museum, Gift of the Strobridge Lithographing Company Library



Ninety artists, in addition to 11 unidentified poster makers, are featured in Posters American Style. On view will be important works by artists representing all media, including Will Bradley, John Sloan, John Henry Twachtman, Maxfield Parrish, Dorothea Lange, Norman Rockwell, Georgia O'Keeffe, Roy Lichtenstein, Wes Wilson, Rupert Garcia, Seymour Chwast, Larry Rivers, and Milton Glaser, as well as splendid works by less familiar artists working in this ever-evolving medium.

David Lance Goines, Student Health Service - University of California, Berkeley

Aids Prevention, 1985, photo-offset lithograph, 24 x 17 inches, Louvre, San Francisco


The museum will publish a 192-page catalogue with more than 140 full-color illustrations. The catalogue essay, by guest curator Therese Heyman, discusses the elements of American style. Biographical information about the artists and a concise guide to postermaking terms are also included.

Victor Moscoso and Rick Griffin, Bill Graham Presents,

Bill Graham Presents in San Francisco/Jimi Hendrix

color lithograph, 21 1/2 x 14 1/8 inches, Mr. and Mrs. W. Robert Johnston



Web Site:

An innovative Web site featuring color images of the posters included in the exhibition, catalogue text, and sound and video clips will be accessible on the museum's Web site at

Exhibition Sponsors·

The exhibition was made possible by a generous gift from Helen and Peter Bing, with additronal support from Steven Schmidt and the Smithsonian's Special Exhibition Program.

National Tour:

Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida, August 29 through October 25, 1998

Santa Barbara Museum ofArt, California, January 23 through March 21, 1999 (tentative)

Oakland Museum of California, June 12 through August 15, 1999


Text and images courtesy of National Museum of American Art


Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 1997 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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