CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

About History Press Release Sessions Schedule Activities Participants Venue Discussion Registration Closed


The Nineteenth-Century Poster as Advertising, Design and Art

Session 4 Appreciation and Utility

CUNY Graduate Program in Art History, New York

 ISKIN, Ruth

The traditional Western division between pure, autonomous art versus arts with a function, such as the decorative arts, has privileged “pure” art. In Europe of the nineteenth century, many artists and critics labored under the assumption that art making needs to be free from constraints and regarded an artwork that had to serve a function as hampered by a constraint. This paper rethinks these assumptions by focusing on the case study of the late nineteenth-century illustrated poster. It asks three questions: Was the advertising function an impediment to the aesthetic development of the poster, or was it a stimulating factor? What did the artists and critics at the time think about this issue? And what attracted the late nineteenth-century new type of collector to the poster as an art object? The paper argues that function played an important role in respect to all three answers offered to these questions.




 Ruth E. Iskin’s recent book, The Poster: Art, Advertising, Design, and Collecting, 1860s-1900s was published in 2014. Her first book Modern Women and Parisian Consumer Culture in Impressionist Painting was published in 2007 (paperback 2014; Chinese translation, 2010). She is the editor of Re-envisioning the Contemporary Art Canon: Perspectives in a Global World, which is forthcoming from Routledge. Iskin’s articles appeared in the Art Bulletin, Discourse, Nineteenth-Century Contexts, Visual Resources, and Nineteenth-Century Art World Wide, the Women’s Art Journal, and in anthologies and museum catalogues, most recently in a catalogue by the Guggenheim Bilbau. Her work has been translated into Czech, Danish, Spanish, Hebrew and ChineseTeaching modern art, visual culture, gender, and museum & exhibition studies, she was a member of the faculty of the Department of the Arts, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev till fall of 2013 and currently lectures in Israel and abroad.