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Classic Posters, the Olympics, and the Romance of Rio

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:

BRX22186Rio 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.

UKC19486             SNX22974z

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.

USL11117           USX11683

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.

frx09977

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. 

BRL20346

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.

  USX24085          USX24309

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.

USL16761       USL19268

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
//www.wbur.org/artery/2014/02/06/olympics-posters

1948 London Olympics – Fly Pan Am

vintage poster, 1948 London Olympics, Pan Am

Just in time for the opening ceremonies later this week, this gallery favorite tells a rich and timely story. In 1939, the Olympics were awarded to London for the 50th anniversary of the Games (to be held in 1944), but were cancelled due to World War II. After the War, London was chosen to host the Games in 1948 despite wartime damage and the strict austerity of its postwar economy.

None of this high drama is reflected in the timeless poster by Walter Herz, which combines the symbolism of the ancient games in the classical Greek sculpture of Discobolus, with the 5 interlocking rings of the Modern Games. In the background looms London’s dominant symbol, the Houses of Parliament, with Big Ben’s clock showing 4PM – the time at which King George VI would proclaim the Games open.

The so-called “Austerity Games” were enormously successful, featuring athletes from a record 59 countries (although Germany and Japan were not invited and the Soviet Union chose not to participate). The Games were the first to be televised; the BBC paid 1000 pounds sterling for the broadcast rights.

Also, for the first time in 1948, Americans could fly across the Atlantic to attend the Olympics. This example is a very hard-to-find variant with Pan Am Clipper text. There were 3 sizes created; this is the 20 x 30″ medium format.

Browse all of International Poster Gallery’s Olympic posters here.

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International Poster Gallery
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Beautiful, Rare & Meaningful Posters from around the Globe.