Article and images from Gebrauchsgraphik, 9, 1961
There are mediocre posters which are awarded prizes, and there are excellent ones which a jury passes by without noticing. This is a very human reaction and by no means the exclusive characteristic of jurors. But this same fact probably makes it also very difficult to determine which, among the best posters, is the most «successful» one. Mankind has not as yet lost its individuality to such a degree that in the matters of taste it would react uniformly, i.e., obtusely and as a homogeneous mass. Every poster-style can therefore be chosen, every creative idiom be spoken – where and how their effect will come to bear can hardly be predicted with precision. (Only in Germany the standard poster size frequently tends to impair the effect.) Every year the 20 best posters are selected in Germany and once more brought to the attention of the public. We do not publish all the twenty posters today; instead we add some which failed to be distinguished and which nevertheless are distinguished. We do this because we wish to attempt to show some typical tendencies of style in applied art. It will be seen from these examples that quite generally the artistic level and the creative idiom of the German poster have considerably improved.
The gap which hitherto had separated it from the top-class of international posters now seems finally closed and there no longer appears to be any danger of lagging behind. The lettered poster pure is on the defensive, a situation which may be regretted. Also drawings on posters and those posters which only aim at pictorial effects are no longer very strongly represented, at best it hobbles along on crutches such as those which Gruau (Paris) fashions for it. Mere, monumentally enlarged photographs remain in the background. Photography, on the other hand, is preferred as modified, independent and original artistic medium. Relations are established with modern fine arts – in some cases the poster even makes modern art acceptable to the public. One produces both phantastic and realistic effects without ever gliding off to the level of the genre or that of mere «objectivity» of the purely documentary.
The economical utilization of lettering enhances the pictorial effect of the poster, the phantastic – such as in Hillmann’s Puntila poster – is heightened to the demoniac. The free treatment of photography produces chiaroscuro effects of a particular note, it yields the finest structural effects of a vividness which modern man feels to be distinctive of himself. The same applies to the precisely calculated mixture of photography and drawing, the lines retraced with the hand (poster « Madame de …, » Bunuel poster by Hillmann). Here the accidental is entirely eliminated, the artistic calculation leaves no remainder. No greater demand can be made even on the best poster.