history of Olympic posters. The author explores five of the previous Olympic posters and comments on the use of color and art within the era that they were developed. The author explores the history of the Olympic poster, focusing on the artistic element with respect to the economic and social conditions that prevailed at that time. There were four sources used to complete this paper.
Regardless of what is going on in the world, the Olympic games bring nations together for a time of fellowship, competition and peace. Nations can be fighting each other at the United Nations, in the fields of war, or with regards to NATO but the Olympic games is a neutral zone for all involved. Each year Olympic posters grace the world as the games draw near and each poster reflects the social and economic era of that time. The Olympic posters, throughout their history, present a collective story not only about the Olympics but the history of art throughout the world. Artistic elements of the posters reveal many aspects of society and date the posters by their very eras.
Throughout the years, Olympic posters have reflected societal values, and economic status as well as provided an illustration of the culture that the games that year are held in. Whether the games are held in France, America, or Africa the poster's artistic style mirrors several aspects of the culture and people. Over the years Olympic posters have provided a backdrop for those who want to study art history. Each poster tells a story about the comrade that occurs during the Olympic Games as well as something about the particular host nation as well. One can look through several posters over a period of several decades to witness history in the making.
ART STYLES AND MESSAGES
The Olympic Games posters go back as far as 1896. The Olympics have always been quite progressive in nature and that progressive attitude shows in the posters that were created early on in the process. The 1900 poster is an especially solid illustration of many of societal view in the nation that hosted the games that year. The games were hosted by France and the poster reflects the fact that France has always been ahead of much of the rest of the world in its treatment of the genders. France has always been known for the equal value it has placed on each gender and it shows in the artistic style that was used in the 1900 Olympic poster.
The poster displays a woman who is ready for fencing. She looks confident and cheerful, which was indicative of society at the time. It was before the world wars and for the most part the world was at peace. The poster also provides that feeling of warmth and comfort in its background of warm gold and yellow. The hairstyle of the painted figure is illustrative of what was popular at the time and the entire poster says that the games were going to be upbeat, confident, dual gendered and fun. The style of art that was used was not abstract, which is also indicative of the style of the time. The romantic undertones of the picture and the warm welcoming colors were popular in the world of art at the turn of the century.
Paris was chosen as the host for the second Games in honour of Coubertin. The Games, however, were run in conjunction with the World's Fair and many French organizers saw them as a distraction. The organizers spent little time planning or promoting the Games and not a single Paris newspaper mentioned the word "Olympics" that summer (http://www.canoe.ca/2000GamesHistory/1900games.html)."
The poster reflected the innocence of the games that year, as it didn't even push the word Olympics. The three swords that the figure in the poster is holding are set in a way that they could represent the many countries that would come together for the competitions. The swords face down, which was a strong societal reflection of the peace felt during the era.
By 1920 the Olympics had taken on a more definite international flair. While the earlier Olympics were also international the early years did exemplify that aspect of the games. By 1920 the definition of the Olympics had taken more shape and the international aspect, not only of the Olympics but of the world at large was a focal point of the poster design. The above poster depicts many flags. If one looks closely at the design one will see that the flags are all intertwined in a fashion that indicates community strength. The flowing manner in which the flags grace the poster are in keeping with the importance that the Olympics began to portray. The international games at this time were not just about sports, but were also about harmony and the use of flags intertwined as if in friendship showed the societal hope for the future. The use of color on this poster also says a lot about the current era of the time. The background of gold and warm yellow tones provide the viewer with a sense of peace and strength, even though it was a time of conflict for many nations.
The picture of the man is also indicative of the times. The man is muscular and strong looking showing the trend to consider the male the stronger sex of the two. This was a part of the times and it showed. The use of the city in the background also was stylistic for its time. The flags of many nations intertwined and flying over the city below was a perfect statement about where the Olympic committees believed the world was headed.
The fact that the flags, and the athlete are floating high above the city portray the idea that the peaceful and intertwined existence of the whole is more important than the individual or the one city. The use of such strong muscle tones on the man in the poster give the viewer confidence in the future as the man seems to throw the object with ease.
In the upper right hand corner there is a wreath which has become a symbol of peace in many settings. The wreath is a statement on this poster as it hangs above the flags and the city in the background. The strength of the posters words are self spoken by their boldness. The block lettering was also something that would lead one to choose Belgium as the nation hosting the awards. The use of the block letters match the strength of the man in the poster and they both tie together with the vision of flags being intertwined.
The Olympics made their way to Los Angeles California by 1932. The poster for that year was artistic and hinted at the movie industry along with the importance of the games. The figure that was painted into the poster is striking a pose that resembles an actor or actress posing for a magazine picture or to accept an award. The Olympic five rings are also introduced in this poster as they are intertwined across the bottom of the poster.
The words used to advertise the Olympic games in this poster is also very Hollywood by its very nature. It says "Call to the games." This sounds like something out of a movie and the placement and body language of the figure on the poster plays into that whole idea. The blue in the background is a calming backdrop for the dramatic flair of the pictured figurine. In this later version of the Olympic poster the wreath is no longer included but the wreath plant seems to be. The figure is holding it in a long flowing strand in a way that depicts the dramatic illusion the poster seems to want to surround the games themselves.
The definition is not as strong and clear in this poster as it is in the previous one. The idea seems to be more dream like yet it still gives the feeling of peaceful existence.
It also depicts the economic problems that America had encountered with the Great Depression. The figure is not dressed in expensive garb, and the poster itself is extremely simplistic as if the poster and the games that the poster represents are trying to respect the understated stress that the nation was experiencing at the time.
Throughout history the Olympic Games posters often told the story of society from an economic standpoint. The two previous posters showed the affluence that the host nations were enjoying at the time while this one provides less of a happy feeling, but does provide a dramatic flair, dependant on the fact that the games were going to be in Los Angeles California.
The poster is simplistic enough to belie the strife of the nation, while using whimsical elements to offer hope and reminders that the Olympics were about unity and togetherness.