Downloadable Deco: Art Archive Puts 200 Graphic Design Classics Online

Some great institutions are becoming even greater in the digital age — places like museums continue to scan high-quality paintings and photographs for distribution and agencies like NASA put vintage pictures and video footage online for everyone to access.

Joining the cool kids’ club, the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) has taken its Art of the Poster collection from the Golden Age of graphic design (late 1800s through the early 1900s) and put it up on the web for anyone to share.

“Featuring over 200 printed works, Art of the Poster 1880-1918 presents a look at lithography’s rise in popularity during La Belle Époque,” reports MyModernMet. “It was during this time that artists like Alphonse Mucha, Jules Chéret, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec popularized the art form, which gained public prominence thanks to new methods of production.”

In the late nineteenth century, lithographers began to use mass-produced zinc plates rather than stones in their printing process. This innovation allowed them to prepare multiple plates, each with a different color ink, and to print these with close registration on the same sheet of paper. Posters in a range of colors and variety of sizes could now be produced quickly, at modest cost.

At the time, many of these masterpieces were essentially commercial in nature, designed to promote products, stores and restaurants. Today, they have made their way into the archives of art history, helping to bridge the gap between popular culture and the closed-door art world of museum exhibits.