Posters are fascinating historical documents because they capture a distinct moment in time; they illuminate technological advances, engineering feats, cultural revolutions, and novelty objects that could otherwise disintegrate from our collective memory.
Here, we’ve highlighted 10 exceptional historic posters, all of which are available in our Second Chance Sale. Through March 23, these lots are available at their reserve prices.
40 x 30 in./101.7 x 76.2 cm
This fancy-free floating image belies a much more somber tale. “Theirs is the Glory” was a 1946 film that recreated the 1944 Battle of Arnhem in World War II using 120 actual 1st Airborne Division soldiers who participated in the encounter. The film was directed by Brian Desmond Hurst, who was himself a veteran of World War I, and the soldiers who starred in the film collaborated on the script. To boot, real footage of the battle was spliced into the film, which lent a harrowing realism to the tale.
The Battle of Arnhem was fought in the Netherlands in September, 1944. After the Battle of Normandy, the Allied forces were poised to enter the country. The US Airborne troops were dropped in to secure bridges and towns; the British 1st Airborne Division landed at Arnhem to capture bridges. After facing unexpected resistance, the British became overwhelmed and lost nearly three quarters of its strength. Despite this disastrous loss, the battle is considered to be an example of courage and endurance and one of the greatest feats of arms in the War..
“Theirs is the Glory” was the highest grossing British war film for almost a decade. Rare!
24 7/8 x 18 3/8 in./63.2 x 46.6 cm
This remarkably detailed poster promotes a rubber company based in New York. Shown is a painterly panorama of the Manhattan skyline from the North River (known today as the Hudson River), with each building and ship identified below. It’s a fascinating capsule of the city from 110 years ago, before skyscrapers cropped up throughout the financial district, and before the original World Trade Center towers and their contemporary replacement. The massive White Star Line’s RMS Oceanic is seen departing the harbor on a return trip to Liverpool and Southampton; she was the largest ship in the world until 1901.
For New York history buffs—or for those who simply love to see the evolution of Manhattan—this is a must-have poster.
33 1/2 x 48 3/8 in./85.2 x 123 cm
A triumphant airman takes his gull-winged monoplane soaring above the medieval spires and towers of Rouen. It’s a euphoric image of bright 20th century futurism, bursting through the golden sunlight of 1910. “Fifty thousand spectators attended the Great Aviation Week of Rouen, with its two-mile circuit, to watch a dozen monoplanes and as many biplanes compete in the now classic disciplines: speed, altitude, and flight duration… The air show was dominated by a talented young man, Léon Morane, who won all of the events, while Marcel Hanriot, Europe’s youngest aviator, was making his debut” (Affiches d’Aviation, p. 33).
The meet also introduced to the public to several new aircraft, including the Hanriot monoplane, the new Breguet biplane, and the two-seat Gnôme-engined Blériot. These planes also reached awe-inspiring heights: Léon Morane achieved an altitude of 150-200 meters. For comparison—as seen in this poster—the central spire of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen is a towering 151 meters high. Today, it is still the second tallest cathedral in the world, which makes this flying feat all the more impressive.
82 1/4 x 82 1/4 in./209 x 209 cm
This lovingly executed, beautifully designed 6-sheet poster for an early “feature-length” (6-reel) documentary film is a rare collector’s item for both film and aviation buffs alike. In 1913, Robert G. Fowler and cameraman Ray Duhem made the first nonstop trans-Panama flight from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean, and documented the entire journey. Their flight over the still uncompleted Panama Canal later got them in trouble with the Department of War because they showed military fortifications in construction.
The full text at bottom reads:
“Starting on flight from ocean to ocean—across the Isthmus. These remarkable pictures were taken by Ray A. Duhem for the hydro-aeroplane of the noted aviator, Robert G. Fowler. Under unusual difficulties Fowler made a daring flight across the Isthmus from the Pacific to the Atlantic, so far the only aviator to make the journey. Shortly afterward, President Wilson issued an executive order forbidding such flights under heavy penalty. The photographs made on this flight, in themselves a notable achievement in motion photography, are probably the only pictures that will ever be taken of the Canal from the air, except for purposes of war.”
This is a six-sheet poster—and rare!
34 3/8 x 47 1/4 in./87.3 x 120 cm
Engelhard takes a break from his charming Art Deco imagery to create a compelling and dynamic design: the unsettling perspective, the dash lines of movement, and the gray abstracted plane beneath a bold red model form a gripping scene. The event depicted is an aerobatic show performed by Ernst Udet and Robert Ritter von Greim, both German aviation pilots in World War I who became national heroes for their triumphant military work. After the war, they continued practicing their passions by putting on top-of-the-line air shows with dangerous maneuvers and awe-inspiring feats. In World War II, both men were recruited for the Luftwaffe; Udet played a key role in reorganizing the German Air Force and organizing the Battle of Britain. Sadly, both men also died from suicide. Rare!
17 5/8 x 23 3/4 in./44.7 x 60.5 cm
The drawing of a woman admonishing her dog appears only half-finished, with the right side remaining blank, but all the pertinent elements are there: the fashionable veiled hat, the gesture of the gloved hand, and the attentive pose of the pooch. Colta Ives, in the catalogue of the Bonnard exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum, speaks of “the softly delineated forms [in the Salon des Cent], enhanced with touches of modeling and color” and feels that although he was part of the Nabis group, “his adoption of a more relaxed and lyrically sensuous approach” set him apart from that fraternity (Ives, p. 6). This charming invitation is surely one of the finest and most sensitive lithographs of Bonnard and of the entire Salon des Cent series.
The Salon of the One Hundred was based at 31 Rue Bonaparte in Paris and established by Léon Deschamps, founder of La Plume magazine. This artistic and literary journal shifted its focus to lithography in the 1890s and became a champion of poster artists. They often dedicated an entire issue to a particular artist, and also acted as exhibitor, wholesaler, and retailer for their works. The artists designed their own posters to announce their exhibitions, and these works became collectors’ items in their own right.
20 1/4 x 29 in./51.4 x 73.6 cm
In this stunning example of the best of Swiss Art Nouveau, we are presented with an early camera amidst a wall of sunflowers. The poster is noted as being the first in Europe created via the héliochrome printing method, and, as the inquisitive artist shown alongside the camera indicates, utilizing this technology does not at all remove the artistic process from color lithography.
According to Jean-Charles Giroud, “This company acquired a European reputation in photographic reproduction processes. It dominated almost all the techniques of the time: similigravure, phototype, zincography… In 1899, they applied the trichromogravure or three-color process to a work by Dellepiane. This process, which is based on the three primary colors—yellow, red, blue—is widely used for book illustrations… ‘This poster… is a masterpiece of color and reproduction accuracy… truly the process of the future, and as such, the Société des Arts Graphiques should be congratulated on this initiative, which is discovering a new horizon for this marvel, photography'” (Génèvoise, p. 116).
47 3/8 x 63 1/2 in./120.2 x 161.5 cm
Nicolas was—and is—one of the major wine dealers/distributors in France, and in 1922, the head of the family firm, Etienne Nicolas, asked Dransy to design a poster to show that the company delivers directly to your home. The delivery man, given the name Nectar, became one of the most popular and instantly recognizable images on the walls of France, and was used in dozens of variations. His addled face and bewildered stance, with bottles pinwheeling out from his hands, lasted as a 50-year-long campaign—in part, because Nicolas Wines acquired the world’s best commercial artists to push the idea forward. The image was the inspiration for later posters by Iribe, Loupot, and Cassandre, among others. This design, however, is based on the original image of Dransy’s, which the Poyet Frères agency supplied with the name in blue on top and a different color (yellow) for the left side bottles; hence the subscript “d’après Dransy.” In later years, Dransy continued the evolution with two more supporting characters: Nectar’s son Glou-Glou and his wife Felicité.
38 1/8 x 53 1/2 in./96.8 x 135.8 cm
All the warmth, humanity, and affection for which Steinlen is so loved comes through gloriously in this poster for the newly marketed “lait stérilisé” that was touted over the “lait ordinaire” at that time. Charles Knowles Bolton, writing a year after its publication, proclaimed that this “is perhaps the most attractive poster ever made. No man with half a heart could fail to fall in love with the child.” Louis Rhead himself commented: “When I saw it in Paris last year… it seemed to me the best and brightest form of advertising that had appeared.”
Sterilized (or pasteurized) milk was first brought on the market in 1894 by the Quillot Brothers in the Vingeanne district of France. Steinlen, as he was often wont to do, employed his daughter Colette and the family’s beloved cats to create this charming scene.
This image has been infinitely reproduced, not only as a poster, but in the form of t-shirts, mugs, calendars, and anything else that can be printed on. But the original lithograph is much scarcer, and a prized work in any poster collection.
20 1/2 x 26 5/8 in./52 x 68 cm
The hills are alive with the sound of Pullman! You have to think that this summery vagabond is yodeling with joy for having cast off the shackles of city life rather than calling to some fellow traveler across Welsh’s well plotted groves, undulant hillocks, and gleaming rays of light. But who wouldn’t shout the praises of Pullman’s ability to get one to their favorite summer resort, and at reduced rates no less?
This euphoria is doubly potent when considering the new possibilities available to women at this time. Women had only gained the right to vote in 1920, but the following decades presented tremendous opportunities to women: education, employment, independence, and more self reliance. But in order to engage female consumers, advertisers needed to adapt to this new phase of womanly ambition. Companies like Pullman began directing their messaging directly to female travelers, who were reflected back to them in images like this one. Welsh presents the traveler as empowered, emboldened, and perfectly content to call her own shots on her trip.