Posters are essential for the decor of any student bedroom. Impact’s Stephanie Soh explains the history behind three popular images commonly found on our walls.
Artist: Katsushika Hokusai
Painting: The Great Wave Off Kanagawa (1832)
Movement: Edo Period, Japan
A great claw of the ocean surges above the slim, weightless boats of Japanese fishermen. Huddled in submission, they are powerless against this sublime force of nature. Mount Fuji rests impassively in the background, distinguishable from the raging currents in her quiet serenity. The first of Hokusai’s ever-popular ‘Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji’ woodblock series, The Great Wave is perhaps the most famous example of ukiyo-e (‘picture of the floating world’) – depictions of a beautiful and transient otherworld. The influence of Hokusai and Japanese artists of this period in general, can be seen in the work of late C19th French artists such as Monet, Cezanne, and Van Gogh.
Painting: Putti (detail from Sistine Madonna) (c. 1513)
Movement: High Renaissance, Italy
Along with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, Raphael was one of the most celebrated artists of the Italian Renaissance. His commissions from Pope Julius II resulted in some of his most renowned works, such as the The School of Athens and this detail from the Sistine Madonna. Raphael’s style is famed for its grace and harmony, infused with what the Italians call dolcezza (‘sweetness’). These two characterised putti lean on the frame of the painting, transgressing the boundary between canvas and reality.
Artist: Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen
Painting: Tournée du Chat Noir (1896)
Movement: Art Nouveau, France
A cabaret owned by man-about-town Rodolphe Salis, the clientele of Le Chat Noir included some of the brightest stars of belle epoque Paris. Artists, intellectuals, and bohemians mingled in this bawdy music hall – a smoky hotbed of heated debate, spirits, and entertainment. Steinlen’s Chat Noir follows in very much a similar vein to poster art at the time; it is a stylised depiction of a rather striking motif. Artists producing works of this decorative style sought to break away from the grand subject matter and classical style of Academic art, which was practised by David, Ingres, et al.