A journey through time: the captivating history of travel posters

In the age of digital advertising and social media influencers, it's easy to forget the allure and charm of a bygone era's travel posters. These iconic images, with their vivid colours, bold typography, and enticing imagery, have been enticing wanderlust for over a century. Let's take a journey through time to explore the fascinating history of travel posters, from their humble beginnings to their enduring legacy in the world of design and tourism.

The birth of travel posters

The origins of travel posters can be traced back to the late 19th century when the invention of lithography revolutionised the printing industry. This innovative printing technique allowed for mass production of colourful images at a relatively low cost, making it ideal for advertising purposes. Initially used for promoting products and events, it wasn't long before enterprising travel companies realised the potential of these eye-catching prints to attract tourists to exotic destinations.

The Golden Age of Travel Posters

Penzance poster

The period between the late 19th and early 20th centuries is often referred to as the Golden Age of Travel Posters. During this time, railways and steamship companies commissioned artists to create enticing posters promoting travel to destinations around the world. Iconic artists such as Jules Chéret, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Alphonse Mucha lent their talents to the creation of stunning posters that captured the imagination of the public.

One of the most famous examples of this era is the posters produced by the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) in the 1920s and 1930s. Artists such as Tom Purvis and Frank Newbould created bold, graphic images showcasing the beauty of destinations such as Scotland, the Lake District, and the English Riviera. These posters not only encouraged domestic travel but also promoted the idea of leisure travel as a desirable pursuit.

The Rise of Art Deco

Antibes poster Roger Broders

The Art Deco movement, which emerged in the 1920s, had a significant influence on travel poster design. Characterised by geometric shapes, streamlined forms, and vibrant colours, Art Deco posters reflected the modernity and optimism of the era. Artists such as A.M. Cassandre and Roger Broders embraced the Art Deco aesthetic in their travel posters, creating sleek and stylish images that epitomised the glamour of travel by luxury liners and aeroplanes.

The impact of World War II

The outbreak of World War II marked the end of the Golden Age of Travel Posters, as travel restrictions and rationing made leisure travel a distant dream for many. However, the war also brought about new opportunities for travel poster artists, as governments and military organisations commissioned posters to promote wartime activities such as recruitment, rationing, and morale-boosting campaigns. After the war, the popularity of travel posters waned as other forms of advertising, such as television and photography, gained prominence.

The boom of post war travel

After World War II, the rise of commercial aviation revolutionised the way people travelled and consequently influenced the evolution of travel posters. Airlines such as Trans World Airlines (TWA) and Pan American World Airways (PanAm) continued to recognise the power of posters as a marketing tool to promote air travel to an expanding list of destinations around the globe.

New York David Klein poster

In the post-war era, airline posters depicted glamorous jet-setters embarking on adventures to exotic locales such as Paris, Rome, Tokyo, and beyond. These posters sought to evoke a sense of glamour and sophistication and often featured sleek, modern aircraft soaring through the skies against dramatic backdrops, symbolising the freedom and excitement of air travel.

As air travel became more accessible and affordable in the latter half of the 20th century, the demand for travel posters soared. Artists and designers continued to create captivating images that inspired wanderlust and encouraged people to explore the world around them.

While the advent of digital advertising has changed the way travel is marketed in the 21st century, vintage airline posters remain cherished relics of a bygone era, serving as reminders of the golden age of travel and the pioneering spirit of those who dared to dream of distant horizons.

Check out our Travel Posters collection.

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