The 31st Summer Olympic Games are here! This is the first Olympics to be held in South America, and the first ever in a Portuguese speaking country. More than 10,000 athletes from 206 countries will compete in 26 sports.
The Games will be held in Rio, one of the world’s legendary cities and the 2nd largest in Brazil. Despite all the challenges to this Olympiad, the exotic romance of Rio has been undeniable since its discovery in 1565. We pay tribute to the city of beaches, bossa nova and Carnival in original posters from our archives and current stock:
Rio Brazil – Wonderful City! by Joa (c. 1950)
The “geometric wave” design of Copacabana’s boardwalk is beneath the dramatic peaks of Corcovado and Sugarloaf – a brilliant Mid-Century Design.
Rio de Janeiro by Royal Mail to South America by Kenneth Shoesmith (c. 1935)
Rio – Swedish American Line, by Ake Rittmark (1937)
Two Art Deco ocean liner posters from the Thirties feature stunning vistas and exotic Brazilian beauties for the rich and famous who could afford the time and money to make the journey.
Fly to Rio by Clipper – Pan American World Airways by Mark Von Arensburg (c. 1950)
Flying Down to Rio in Five Days via Pan American by Paul G. Lawler (c. 1939)
These are the most iconic Pan Am posters to Rio, one before WWII and the other after. Lawler’s magnificent early aviation poster borrows the title from the 1933 film, Flying Down to Rio starring Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, and shows a Clipper Ship flying over Sugarloaf from behind the Christ Statue on the summit of Mt. Corcovado. The 1950s design is a remarkable day and night view highlighting the city’s natural beauty and a Carnival Samba dancer below a full moon.
Air France – Amerique du Sud by Victor Vasarely (1946)
Vasarely’s poster from 1946 is surely the most romantic of all Air France posters, and reflects the rise of Rio as a top destination after the war. The future Op Art master created a dazzling geometric pattern on the waves (perhaps inspired by Copacabana’s boardwalk) as a Lockheed Constellation heads into Rio at sunset.
Hotel California – Rio de Janeiro (c. 1955)
An ingenious luggage label for a hotel on Copacabana Beach (its location marked by the arrow) that is clearly the place to be.
Beneath the Southern Cross, RIO is Calling (c. 1950)
Only seen in the Southern hemisphere, the 4 star constellation known as the Southern Cross is visible from the deck of a cruise ship approaching Rio. The Fifties were a golden age of cruising to South America for Americans. This M & M Line tour was 38 days!
Rio de Janeiro by Howard Koslow (1963)
An incredibly romantic Sixties travel poster of Rio and Guanabara Bay at nightfall.
Rio – Braniff International Airways by Artist Unknown (c. 1960)
Rio – Braniff International Airways by Artist Unknown (c. 1960)
Playfulness takes center stage in these Mad Men era posters for Braniff, an American airline that specialized in routes in the Western Hemisphere.
View all in-stock Olympics posters
View all in-stock Rio posters
For a History of Olympic Posters:
Picturing The Olympics: A History of the Games In 15 Posters
Imre Spiegel, AZ Aero: Follow All Aviation Events. 1917. Lithograph backed on linen.
One of the great joys of being a poster collector is finding a rarity that brings you right back to your earliest interests and passions. As a boy, I was fascinated with WWI aviation and dove headlong into model-making, visits to the Old Rhinebeck aerodrome and reading about all the aces and battles. I remember going to the library and finding a musty copy of Eddie Rickenbacker’s Fighting the Flying Circus and marveling at his guts as he figured out by trial and error how far he could push a dive before losing the top wing of his airplane.
So imagine my joy finding this remarkable and extremely rare Hungarian poster for an aviation magazine during World War I. It dates from 1917, when the war’s outcome was very uncertain, and a period when the role of the airplane in combat was evolving quickly. To me, it is the most unusual and evocative aviation poster of the war.
The poster shows a squadron of Albatros bi-planes, the first German plane with twin machine guns. The plane was the scourge of the British air force in the Battle of Arras in April 1917, known as “Bloody April,” where the British lost a staggering 245 aircraft to 66 for the Axis.
The poster, with the headline “Follow All Aviation Events,” interestingly shows a Fokker Triplane in the distance. It was the counter to the British Sopwith Camel and other advanced machines which arrived in mid-1917 to duel the less maneuverable Albatros.
This poster probably dates from May to September of 1917, as deliveries of improved Albatros planes began to be produced for the first time in Austro-Hungary. It also corresponds to the arrival of the development and production quantities of the Fokker triplane.
The provenance of this poster is equally noteworthy. It belonged to Hans Sachs, the founder of The Poster Society in Germany and the largest and most important collector of his time with more than 10,000 posters. Sachs’ collection was later confiscated by the Nazis and only came to light in the basement of an East German museum in 1966. Sadly, after a successful multi-decade battle between the Sachs family and the German courts, the collection had to be sold to pay for the hefty lawyer bills.
100 years ago today, the sinking of Cunard’s luxurious Lusitania off the coast of Ireland by a U-Boat took 1,198 lives (including 123 Americans) and evoked a visceral anti-German reaction in England and the US. The deadly submarine cordon around Britain was one of the most visible signs that WWI would be the most destructive war ever — an all-out struggle involving civilians and soldiers alike. Ultimately the atrocity would be a chief reason for US entry in the war two years later against Germany and its allies.
This powerful 5 foot tall “Remember the Lusitania – Enlist To-Day” broadside was printed immediately following the sinking to appeal to the public sentiment surrounding the tragic loss of lives. Consisting of text only, it quotes from the jury’s verdict, which matched the intensity of feelings surrounding the atrocity: the great ship sank in 18 minutes, taking with it many leading figures of the era.
The creation of the Lusitania represented the optimism and technological sophistication of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. This recently sold poster by Odin Rosenvinge from around 1907 shows the majestic ship slicing through rough seas, seen under a moonlit sky and traversed by the beacon of a nearby lighthouse. Moody and romantic, it is one of the rarest and most beautiful of all ocean liner posters.
The Lusitania and its sister, the Mauretania, were the largest and fastest on the sea, utilizing steam turbines for the first time. Moreover, the ships displayed unrivaled luxury and comfort prompting its rival White Star to build the Titanic a few years later. The sinking of the Lusitania cut British pride to the core.
Erik Larson’s recently released narrative non-fiction novel, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, is a #1 New York Times Bestseller and tells the compelling tale of the sinking of the Lusitania. Larson consulted archival materials, including code books, intercepted telegrams, photographs, U-boat logs, and even love letters from Woodrow Wilson. A great summer read!
On May 6, 1937, the Hindenburg, the largest German airship, exploded in flames as it was landing in Lakehurst, New Jersey. Although the immediate cause of the spark is debated, the underlying cause was well known – the United States was the only industrial source of helium in the world and would not sell the “strategic material” to the Nazis. The Zeppelin Company was forced to substitute hydrogen, a flammable material, for helium. The rest is history.
The poster featured above was once owned by the advertising director of American Airlines, the company that managed flights from Lakehurst to New York City for Zeppelin customers. It is still attached to the original board he displayed it on in his office.
For photographs and additional history on the Hinderburg Disaster, we recommend this recent article featured on theatlantic.com.
Otto Baumberger, Doelker Die Weisse Mode, 1923. Many of the early posters were designed for Bally shops, such as Doelker. An exceptionally elegant image by Baumberger.
Emil Cardinaux, Bally Chaussures de Sport, 1924. One of the pioneers of Swiss poster art, Cardinaux created 8 posters for Bally, mostly for sport and work shoes.
Fashion Week is a perfect time to show off one of the best fashion poster series of all time. Perhaps the longest running, most extensive (over 200 posters) and beautiful is the series for Bally shoe. Founded in 1851 in Switzerland, Bally became an internationally respected name in men’s and women’s shoes within 20 years. In 1907 the Company went public and created a position for a publicity manager. Although the first poster was created that year, posters only became a regular part of the firm’s marketing mix around 1920.
What resulted was a spectacular explosion of posters, many created by the best designers in Switzerland, France and Spain that has continued to the present day. Here are six fine examples.
Ribas, Bally Chaussures, 1924. Ribas created three stunning images for Bally in the Roaring Twenties, and captured the glamor of the era perfectly.
Pierre Augsburger, Bally Radar, 1955. Bally started promoting ski boots in the early Thirties. This Object Style poster was a terrific call to action – Lace ‘Em up and Go!
Jacques Demachy, Bally, 1947. It is perfectly clear from Demachy’s post-World War II poster that Paris couture is back.
Bernard Villemot, Bally Ball, 1989. In the late 80s, Villemot’s Art Deco inspired posters carried on the Bally tradition to a new, hip consumer. Note that our Bally girl has a Bally man in the shadows.