Poster Power at the V&A
Richard Tames introduces an exhibition that explores posters in their many forms at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The prime minister’s concern to re-brand the nation as ‘Cool Britannia’ makes a new exhibition, The Power of the Poster, opening at the V&A on April 2nd, timely indeed. It may even sharpen the search for what, according to the accompanying book, one inter-war bureaucrat silkily termed ‘dignified national projection’.
The development of the modern poster is attributed to the perfection of chromolithography in the 1840s; the political mobilisation of non-élites from the 1860s onwards; and concurrent demographic shifts creating massive urban concentrations which could be exposed to persuasive messages. The iconographies invoked by posters are, however, often rooted in an older mental landscape dotted with gods, martyrs, madonnas, dragons, shining crosses and avenging swords.