A century ago, printmakers learned to produce big colorful pictures cheaply, and the lowly, lively poster was born.
Since then, poster art has combined commerce with artistic expression, bold images with simple, sometimes subtle text. Posters have urged Americans to vote, enlist, buy, boycott, or join - all by appealing to the eye.
The advertising world embraced poster art early on. Circus scenes were among the most popular.
James Montgomery Flagg created the famous "I Want You for US Army" image in 1917. It was recycled for World War II. By then, the US government had mastered the medium. In the 1930s, the Works Projects Administration commissioned posters that offered advice on health, safety, and other general topics. The War Department used posters to help shape public opinion and bolster morale. By 1944, more than 5,000 government posters had been issued.
"Posters American Style" traces the genre from the early woodcut designs through the psychedelic influences of 1960s rock music and beyond. The exhibit is at the Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Fla., through Oct. 25.