Edward Penfield - Harper’s February 1897The Museum's collection of some 500 literary posters developed over four decades through the vision and support of Leonard A. Lauder

Exhibition Dates: March 7–June 11, 2024
Location: The Met Fifth Avenue, Robert Wood Johnson, Jr. Gallery, Gallery 690

New York, N.Y. - During the 1890s, a new type of poster emerged in the United States, one that more closely resembled a work of art than an advertisement. These sleek, sophisticated posters publicized magazines, newspapers, books, and other forms of literature. On view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from March 7 through June 11, 2024, The Art of the Literary Poster: Works from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection will present more than 50 highlights from the Museum's outstanding collection of some 500 works, developed over four decades through the vision and support of Leonard A. Lauder. The exhibition will mark the occasion of the publication of The Art of the Literary Poster: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection. Featuring 135 full-page color plates, the book will offer new scholarship that approaches literary posters from the perspectives of visual culture, the professionalization of women artists, marketing psychology, and technique. Additionally, a related webpage launching in March 2024 will allow viewers to digitally browse The Met's literary poster collection.

"Nineteenth-century American literary posters stood at the vanguard of modern commercial art and graphic design, as vibrantly captured through this important catalogue and installation," said Max Hollein, The Met's Marina Kellen French Director and Chief Executive Officer. "Leonard A. Lauder—one of the great collectors and philanthropists of our time—has long championed this genre, appreciating the literary posters for their historical value and sheer beauty. We are grateful for the time, energy, and expertise that he has devoted to developing The Met’s collection of these works, ever since his first donation of posters to the Museum in 1984."

Allison Rudnick, Associate Curator in The Met's Department of Drawings and Prints, said, "The Met's superb collection of American literary posters would not exist without the vision, determination, and generosity of Leonard A. Lauder. Several decades ago, he astutely recognized that posters of this type belonged in a great public institution, and since then he has developed and shaped the collection into what it is today. We are pleased to offer the Museum's audience a lively publication and installation to experience these works, as well as a complementary website providing invaluable access to the entire literary poster collection."

"These posters represent a pivotal moment in American graphic design and visual culture. Their power, aesthetic sophistication, and wit continue to enthrall us, even in the image-saturated world we live in today," stated Mr. Lauder. "Viewing them at The Met allows visitors to see the interplay of this powerful medium with art and design from different eras and cultures."

Over the course of the 19th century, innovations in printing techniques enabled the production of multicolored posters that seamlessly integrated text with image. Before 1890, posters tended to be produced by large printing firms with little regard for aesthetic value. By contrast, literary posters were frequently printed by the issuing publishing houses, where art department staff could ensure a higher-quality product. They were also designed by the top illustrators of the day who drew on the latest stylistic trends such as Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts movement to create elegant, modern designs that had a lasting impact on illustration, graphic design, and marketing in the United States.

With a focus on innovations in style and technique, The Art of the Literary Poster will feature works by the leading American poster artists of the day, including Will H. Bradley, Joseph Christian Leyendecker, Edward Penfield, and Ethel Reed. The display will also spotlight exceptional works that The Met has acquired since 1987, when the Museum last organized an exhibition on the Lauder poster collection. The exhibition marked Lauder’s gift of posters to The Met in 1984. Since then, the collection has more than doubled in size and now includes over 500 works.

Credits and Related Content

The exhibition is curated by Allison Rudnick, Associate Curator in The Met's Department of Drawings and Prints.

The publication, The Art of the Literary Poster: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection, will be available for purchase from The Met Store. It will be published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press.

This publication has been made possible by a generous grant from Leonard A. Lauder.

The exhibition is featured on The Met website as well as on social media.



Image: Edward Penfield (American, 1866–1925). Harper’s: February, 1897. Lithograph. 19 × 14 in. (48.3 × 35.5 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Leonard A. Lauder Collection of American Posters, Gift of Leonard A. Lauder, 1984 (1984.1202.96).