Vintage Posters, Vintage Pictures and Printables

The Golden Age Of Illustration

Period of unprecedented excellence in Illustrative arts.

Alphonse Mucha
Job Tobacco Poster by Alfons Mucha

1880s to 1930s is marked as a period of “The Golden Age of Illustration”. Though it will never be officially considered as a historic period in arts movement, it was indeed a period of illustrative arts excellence that saw mass production of arts, where arts can be cheaply produced and enjoyed by many. It was a period of what could be considered to have some of the best illustrative artists ever lived. Officially, this is a period where two popular official art movements were joined; Art Nouveau from 1880s to 1910s and Art Deco from 1910s to 1940s. Thus, The Golden Age of Illustration can simply be known as a period of outstanding excellence in graphic arts, illustration in books, magazines, posters, and other printed media.

Advances in lithography printing

lithography press
picture courtesy of wikimedia

Invention of lithography technique by Aloys Senefelder in 1798 based on the concept that oil and water do not mix did not ignite the mass printing era yet. It was until 1880s, where halftone process became main stream and catalyzed the growth of mass production. By 1900s, full color reproduction became advanced enough for magazine and book prints.

Though black and white photography was also invented during the period, color photography was not invented yet; colored printing and beautiful art illustrations still reigned supreme at the time. This has allowed direct reproduction of artist’s work in its full glory.

Age of industrialization

During the period, Europe and America continued growth through industrialization stage and witnessed World War 1. Rapid development in railway networks as a mean of transportation and logistics network accelerated inter country connectivity.

1918 Southern Pacific Lines Vintage Travel Poster

Pulp-based paper production was getting cheaper and with railroads well developed, facilitated the distribution and broaden the reach of printed media to wider audience.

The rapid industrialization, booming economy and soon in 1915s the participation in war created an insatiable demand for consumer products. Though many new products such as television and radio were invented during the era, however the primary medium that people used to connect to the world is still through magazines and newspapers.

Incredible Demand for printed media

The Golden Age of Illustration period saw tremendous growth in demand for quality illustrations and visual arts skyrocketed. There was an incredible demand for top rated artists; it attracted many talents to join the industry as companies were paying top dollars for their work.

Amazing Stories
Pulp Magazine – Amazing Stories 1928

At the height of its popularity, magazine publishers and children storybook publishers have depended on artists to bring fiction and stories to life. Pulp magazines such as Amazing Stories and Astounding Science Fiction was able to capitalize on beautiful artwork to attract readers to pick up their publication from newsstand and to spur reader’s imagination by supporting the contents of stories and articles with compelling artworks. The artist and author partnership was a indeed a recipe for success as publishers were able to reach enormous circulations and reach mass audience.

Coming Age of Photography

Meanwhile photographic technology continued to develop and by 1940s onwards would slowly replace illustrations of the non-fiction.


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