Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Posters of the Macabre

Cocaine“This was a five-act Parisian musical that we believe was performed in 1923,” says Negovan. “We’re desperately trying to find historical information on this one – it looks like it was quite the show!’

Prints of darkness: macabre vintage posters
Before TV and radio, the main way of reaching the public was with large, eye-catching posters. Theatre, silent film and opera would be advertised with colourful images fixed to walls or fences. Most have been lost or destroyed, but Los Angeles art gallery Century Guild has a collection of peculiar and macabre prints from Germany, Austria, France and Italy dating back to 1880-1890. “What I find most striking is the modernity of the visual message,” says the gallery’s founder, Thomas Negovan. “We tend to view the turn of the century through a sepia-toned lens of quaintness, when the truth is that the world then was just as dynamic and thrilling as our lives are today.”

Kathryn Bromwich
9 January 2016

The Dance of Death“This was a silent film Fritz Lang wrote in 1919: in the story, a femme fatale lures men to their deaths until she falls in love with one of her potential victims. There’s only one known copy of the original English-language poster.”

Alraune“This 1918 film, based on the novel by Hanns Heinz Ewers, takes the superstition that witches would use mandrake root and the semen of a hanged man to impregnate themselves, and gives it a scientific update. The resulting child grows up to leave a trail of men in her wake – including the man who created her. A landmark of early horror.”

Rasputin“After Rasputin’s demise, a number of films chronicled the larger-than-life tale of his fascinating character; this is for a Danish release circa 1920.”

Elimin“ A terrifying late-19th century advertisement for roach poison.”

The Victims of Alcohol“ The poster illustrates the course of a 1911 silent film where a man goes from devout husband and father to finding himself alone in an insane asylum because of his dalliances with absinthe.”

Shadows and Light“ A poster advertising a Munich dance performance in 1919, loosely based on Beauty and the Beast. The image is suggestive of contemporary Japanese anime.”

Teatro alla Scala: Verdi “In 1913, conductor Arturo Toscanini gathered the greatest performers of the day to honour the centenary of the birth of opera legend Giuseppe Verdi. One of the rarest posters we’ve ever had the good fortune to come across, the original is a majestic 10 feet tall and on permanent display in our gallery. Giuseppe Palanti, who created the poster, was also Verdi’s set designer.”

Anti-Alcohol “A 1912 poster ‘against alcohol’.”

La Syphilis “An image meant to warn Belgian soldiers returning from the front of the dangers of ‘The French Pox’. It depicts a dangerous woman standing both seductively and menacingly in front of a field of graves.”

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