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Owning a piece of history – a poster

Stew Mosberg

Perhaps in this age of multimedia advertising, telemarketing and the profusion of images bombarding us at every turn, we have become jaded by an art form that once typified Paris streets.

Advertising posters were not merely a means to hawk products, places and things, they gave rise to one of the most popular artistic endeavors of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Just a few miles west of Beaver Creek, and tucked neatly into the recently “manufactured” village of Edwards, is Christopher & Co., a world-class vintage poster gallery.

Here you will find some of the best examples of original posters as well as less expensive reproductions. In fact, it is one of the most extensive collections in the world. Incorporating almost 150 years of the medium, Christopher & Co.’s variety includes most every poster subject produced – ski scenes, travel, circuses, Wild West shows, movies, bicycles and beverages abound.

Even if you’re not a connoisseur of the medium, you will see many familiar images and artists on display, more than 3,000 in all.

Awhile back in London, owner Steve Woodruff began his collection as a hobby, and opened his first gallery in Beaver Creek seven years ago. He moved to Edwards in 1999.

Posters have their roots in the form of street-distributed handbills. Later, as color reproduction became more sophisticated, and larger format prints could be produced, artists were hired to portray products and publicize events.

The initial major force in the new medium was Jules Cheret who produced his first poster in 1858 in France. Considered the father of modern lithography, Cheret produced thousands of posters during his lifetime, ultimately resulting in the establishment of a museum of his work in 1928 in Nice, France.

Among some of the most famous poster artists represented at Christopher & Co. are Alphonse Mucha, the wonderful Art Nouveau master. Roger Broders, one of my personal favorites, is included as well. Like many of these artists, Broders’ Art Deco travel posters are reproduced today in the form of decorative wall pieces, ashtrays, napkins, coasters, pillows and other utilitarian objects.

Theophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Lucien Lefevre and Ludwig Hohlwein, names known to any poster collector, are also present.

When visiting the gallery take the opportunity to examine and evaluate the various techniques of the artists, and examine the differences in the results they achieved. The advances in reproduction methods spanning the years from 1850-1950 allowed artists to reach for a wider variety of colors, subtleties and nuances.

The charm and simplicity of the earlier attempts are no less fascinating than the later imagery. Each possess a style and elegance defining an art form that was once readily available to the masses by simply walking past a kiosk in Montmartre during La Belle Epoque.

Owning one of these originally printed posters is generally more affordable than most other “original” art. Their value continues to increase as fewer and fewer of them come on the market.

Stew Mosberg is a writer and journalist working out of Blue River. He holds a bachelor of design degree from the University of Florida, College of Fine Arts and Architecture, is author of two books on design and is the recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.


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