The names and faces of Hollywood legends—Charlie Chaplin, Bette Davis, Bela Lugosi, Rita Hayworth, and more—have made a grand comeback as Art of the Movies. In association with the American Film Institute, these iconic images were re-created honoring the top 100 selections in AFl’s 100 Years … 100 American Movie Posters Classics.
Through this historic project—a collaborative effort by the AFI, major Hollywood film studios, and Art of the Movies—the 100 most memorable and striking movie posters of the 20th century were recreated as a spectacular collection of limited-edition fine art lithographs.
Using old-time, hands-on printing techniques, the program recreated early film posters in exactly the same way they were created during the first half of the century—from painstakingly hand-drawn plates, “pulled” one color at a time on the extremely rare antique Marinoni Voirin printing press. At the same time, later 20th-century movie posters, which typically were produced using cheaper, lower-quality photo-reproduction, were reborn in the form of these exquisite, aesthetically superior lithographic artworks.
All the lithographs are exactly the same size as the originals, from the standard “one sheets” (41″ x 27″) to the monstrous “three-sheets” like the towering King Kong (81″ x 41″). Unlike their predecessors, however, the collection was printed on durable archival paper with the finest-quality inks, which guarantees these masterworks of American culture, will be preserved for generations to come.
The selection process called for researchers to pore over more than 31,000 candidates in the Herschenson-Allen Archives, the largest collection of American movie poster images in the world. With the help of a jury of experts, they choose the 100 finest examples of this popular and important art form. Although originally thought of as mere advertising “paper”—temporary and disposable—many of these images were designed by some of the most famous and talented artists and illustrators of their day: masters such as Norman Rockwell, James Montgomery Flagg, John Held Jr., Thomas Hart Benton, Al Hirschfeld, and Bob Peak. Over the years, these images have become the most sought-after items of film memorabilia, with rare vintage posters often garnering tens of thousands—even hundreds of thousands of dollars—at art auctions.
AFl’s 100 Years … 100 American Movie Posters Classics collection was established in order to preserve this vital aspect of America’s movie heritage, while making the joy of collecting classic works of movie poster art accessible to millions of art lovers and movie fans throughout the world. The American Film Institute was established by The National Endowment for the Arts in 1965, with a charter to “…preserve the heritage of American film and promote its recognition as an art form.” The AFI has been carrying out that charter for thirty-five years, rescuing from disintegration and restoring some of America’s historic early films, teaching film-making and promoting the American movie throughout the world. This collection pays homage to the American movie poster and helps preserve Hollywood’s legacy.