Swedish Posters on Postage Stamps

- Poster Art Europe 2003

Sweden Post asked the National Library to suggest a number of posters as stamp designs, and in 2003 issued international postage stamps based on posters.

1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm by Olle Hjortzberg is the only poster that previously had the honor of being put on a stamp. The National Library recommended a selection of Swedish posters as stamp designs. Sweden Post chose four to use as stamps and another to illustrate the folder. The designs were presented at a press showing in the Main Post Office building when the stamps were issued on 29 November 2002. Owe Gustafsson, creator of Skansen’s Thriving Agriculture poster, believes that one way to find out whether a poster is good or not is to look at it in postage stamp format.

1912 Olympic Games in SAtockholm by Olle Hjortzberg  ©Olle Hjortzberg 1911

Development of the Poster

The history of the poster in Sweden and abroad is connected to people’s needs and opportunities to spread information. Printing techniques and the ability to mass produce posters made it easier to reach the public via official announcements and proclamations, which were soon joined by placards informing the public of theatrical performances. Eventually, people began using posters for advertising and by the early 19th century for political and social agitation as well.

The Poster as Information Channel

Early posters were characterized by text that covered the entire surface. The character of the poster changed in the 19th century when the use of illustrations began. The opportunity to combine text and pictures made the poster more appealing and striking. In parallel, posters became both informative and manipulative. Posters had to be eye-catching and make an instant impression.

Poster Impact

An effective poster combines different stylistic resources and uses tried-and-true rhetorical approaches. The message of the poster must be current, and is thus strongly connected to its time. Values, trends, and important events are expressed in ways typical of the times. The poster is a surefire way to recreate historical settings. Once the poster is no longer current, it becomes decorative, and is then valued more highly.

Swedish Poster Artists

Swedish artists started making poster art in the late 19th century. Some of the more important names are Nils Kreuger, Arthur Sjögren, Richard Bergh, Olle Hjortzberg, and Ragnar Östberg, who were inspired by artists on the Continent. Posters eventually took on higher status, but most Swedish posters were still created by more or less anonymous commercial artists – which still applies to contemporary posters.

Various Styles

A distinctly Swedish poster style can be discerned starting in the 1910s and is especially apparent in the work of Wilhelm Kåge and Einar Nerman. The 20th century brought many new impulses from the painterly arts. Poster artists were inspired by Cubism and Surrealism, while the Bauhaus Movement’s experiments with surfaces, photomontage, and typography were directly applicable. To have the courage to tell a visual story in the context of design and graphic design and to use various stylistic resources has been a challenge in the epoch of modernism. The breakthrough in Sweden came with Functionalism in the 1930s and those ideals were not abandoned until the 1950s. In recent decades, new means of expression have set the stamp of our time on the character of the poster, and, as before, it is becoming a mirror of its time.

Originals used for stamps: Anders Beckman, Georg Magnusson, Owe Gustafson, and Carina Länk. Typography: Olöf Baldursdottir. The stamps were offset printed by Sweden Post, Stamp Division.

Anders Beckman, 1932  ©Anders Beckman, 1932

George Magnusson, 1930  ©George Magnusson, 1930

Owe Gustafsson, 1984  ©Owe Gustafsson, 1984

Carina Länk, 1993  ©Carina Länk, 1993

The collector sheet, typographer Olöf Baldursdottir, shows a poster of copyright: Einar Nerman/BUS 2002 from 1916. Ronny Johansson was an internationally famous dancer and teacher. She founded the Swedish Dance Teachers Association in 1939.

Einar Nerman, 1916  ©Einar Nerman, 1916

Last updated: 2008-04-28
Contact person: Catarina Nordling, e-mail: firstname.lastname@kb.se
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