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Larger than Life

 Der Buchdruck Original Poster by Niklaus Stoecklin

Stoecklin, Niklaus.
Der Buchdruck - Gewerbemuseum Basel, 1922 

PKZ Coat Original Poster by Otto Baumberger

Baumberger, Otto.
PKZ (coat), 1923 

Radio Paillard Original Poster by Peter Birkhauser 

Birkhauser, Peter.
Radio Paillard, 1945 

The Swiss Object Poster 1919-1959

September 12 through October 22, 1998 

Objects larger than life - so large they become icons - are the subject matter of Switzerland's leading poster style after World War I and continuing beyond mid-century. Featuring hyper-realistic drawings of everyday objects with little text, the style focused everything on the beauty and precision of even the most mundane products. As a group, these posters reveal breathtaking graphic skill and unprecedented printing quality, and are in many ways the culmination of the classic age of the lithographic poster. We have assembled a spectacular assortment of these images - more than 50 from the best Swiss artists, such as Baumburger, Stoecklin, BirkhauserLeupin and Brun

It wasn't until around 1908 that Switzerland awoke to the commercial opportunities of modern graphic design. The Swiss looked first to its more advanced neighbors, most notably Germany and France, to create a modern style. In addition, many young Swiss artists studied abroad, and brought the new ideas home with them. Otto Baumberger, considered by many the father of the Swiss poster, studied in Germany and traveled in England and France before returning to Zurich in 1914.

So it is not surprising that when the first Swiss Object Posters appeared around 1910 they showed and strong resemblance to the German model. In 1919, however, a new type of Object Poster appeared in Zurich - a marvelous top hat by Baumberger for Baumann - and it is as striking for its similarity to German models as to its differences. Baumberger and other Zurich artists continued to make Object Posters in the '20s and beyond, but the most notable developments occurred in Basel. Niklaus Stoecklin returned there in 1914 after studying in Munich, where he had absorbed the lessons of the modern poster style from Hohlwein.  

Stoecklin's early masterpiece for a bookmaking exhibition at the Basel Design Museum in 1922 reveals his Purist approach. Stoecklin's Object Posters became more super realistic after 1923, perhaps in response to Baumberger's PKZ coat. In 1934, Stoecklin's pupil Peter Birkhauser began to create impeccable posters in the super-realist style. Birkhauser's PKZ Button, like Stoecklin's posters, took the Object Poster a step beyond Baumberger's PKZ Coat. Now the image is a symbol of an idea, rather than a full visualization of the object.

Another newcomer named Herbert Leupin appeared in Basel in 1937 who would have a major impact on the style. Leupin was to become the most famous of the Basel artists, creating about 500 posters over a 30 year span, with an unprecedented 89 of them winning Swiss Poster of the Year awards. His most famous poster for Eptinger mineral water (a series which spanned more than three decades) simply showed a damaged traffic sign with the words "Drink Eptinger instead!

To this day the Swiss Object Poster remains unsurpassed in its sheer sensuous beauty and technical precision. Its heyday in the forties and fifties was in many ways an appropriate finale to the lithographic poster technique, which was so important to the development of modern advertising and graphic design. 

View all Object posters here

 PKZ Button     vintage poster, "Bi-Oro Creme Solari" by Leupin 

              Birkhauser, Peter.                                   Leupin, Herbert.
             PKZ (button), 1934                          Bi-Oro Creme Solari, 1942

 ...Trink Lieber Eptinger! Original Poster by Herbert Leupin     Bell (carving board) Original Poster by Herbert Leupin 

           Leupin, Herbert.                                     Leupin, Herbert.
     ...trink lieber Eptinger! 1947                    Bell (carving board), 1939