Skip to main content

Poster Painters Collection

MHL Collections - Graphic Arts Collection - Poster Painters Collection
The Poster Painters collection spans the years 1923-1943 and encompasses more than 100 poster paintings by artists Batiste Madalena, Sid Smith, O. M. Wise, Edward Augustus Armstrong and R. J. Rogers. The collection documents an American cottage industry that was popular from the 1910s until the 1950s and provided employment for hundreds of artists whose work graced the lobbies and frontages of both the great movie palaces and the small neighborhood theaters. Working both for individual houses and for major chains, these forgotten and generally unacknowledged artists created posters intended for local consumption only, "selling" the film through advertising that emphasized what would appeal most to that community and designed to integrate fully within that particular theatrical setting. This was very much a transient, commercial art, discarded and forgotten as quickly as many of the films it promoted. Posters would routinely be painted over again and again. As a result, few original examples have survived.

The majority of poster paintings in the collection were created by Batiste Madalena who is the most well-known of these artists. Madalena worked in Rochester, New York, in the mid-1920s. Almost forgotten, his work was discovered by filmmaker Steven Katten who donated one-third of Madalena's poster paintings that are included in the collection. The other two-thirds came from Madalena's family. These major contributions are supplemented by the work of Jane Powell, the wife of former Academy president Charles M. Powell. Powell is responsible for the library's acquisition of much of the rest of the collection, particularly the manuscript component.

In addition to the actual poster paintings there are 4.7 linear feet of documents including some correspondence, clippings, photographs, scrapbooks and copies of articles from the trade publication "Signs of the Times." Of special note is a photograph album that documents the work of Edwin "Ike" Checketts. Checketts was active in Utah from roughly 1915 until the mid-1920s.

Gift of Jane Powell and Lori Berthelsen, 2001-2003.