International Institute for Sport History
Library & Museum

The Sport in Art Poster Series

The second poster published in the series after Wrestling 1001.

The Sport in Art Poster Series
is a long-term project to increase public awareness and appreciation in the arts as it relates to the subjects of history of sport, physical education, recreation, dance, sport in art and the Olympic Games through poster art.

Art itself is as old as the human experience as we know from cave paintings that are thousands of years old. Ancient Egyptian paintings included hundreds of wrestlers inside the tombs at Beni-Hasan, Egypt.

Throughout the centuries sport has been depicted in various forms from ancient Greek vase paintings...

... to Greek and Roman statuary...

... from oil paintings....

... to printed books.

Poster art and graphic design became very popular in the last decades of the 19th century as some of the greatest artists of the era brought their skill to the advertising world. Today the posters designed by such famous artists as Alphonse Mucha, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Jules Chéret are hanging in museums worldwide. These vintage posters sell for hundreds of thousands of US Dollars when they appear in auctions. Originally these posters were used to advertise events such as World Fairs, cabarets and shows, as well as products like coffee, chocolate, wine and even soap.

The growth of posters for publicity was worldwide but a huge variety of work came from European artists and printers. These posters advertised ships and trains. A huge number of poster designs were made to advertise the newest rage of transportation in the late 19th century - bicycles.

Then came the automobile and eventually airplanes. By the 1920's posters were the main method of advertising for travel to resorts in such places as Italy, Alpine mountains in Switzerland and Austria, and all of the capitals of Europe. There are thousands of posters from this era that promoted almost every resort in Europe as well as other places in the USA, Mexico and Japan. Posters colorfully advertised sports events and recreational activity such as skiing, gymnastics and many other sports.

These posters were pasted with glue onto walls and kiosks and were never intended for long term use. The paper was not the good quality that was normal for writing letters, but had a higher acid content. And these posters were usually torn down, so few survived to this day. They were the most important form of advertising at the time. During World Wars I and II posters served a psychological role -- to motivate the public to support the war efforts in their countries. Posters remained a major form of advertising until television arrived after World War II.

The artistic designs of posters were replaced by photography in the 1950's. Posters faded from advertising as printing evolved, television gained adherents and magazines proliferated. The poster as art evolved into informational advertising for such things as concerts and musicians like the Beatles, and political posters during election years. Poster publishers found a market to offer reproductions of famous old artwork like Mona Lisa and other great works from Museums to youth and students worldwide. Today students and youth cover their walls with posters that depict their favorite singer or rapper, cartoon character or movie, while others hang bikini-clad girls on their dorm walls.

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In the beginning posters were quite large because they had to be seen from a distance - like billboards of today. They have gotten smaller in size and usually are between 11 x 14 inches to 25 by 40 inches. Sports posters became more popular after the Olympic Games used this medium to promote their mission. Today most sport posters look like calendars with team schedules or promote a famous athlete or specific team. The art of the 19th century has certainly been forgotten and we want to change that trend.

This series of posters is planned in the more traditional sense, a return to the true form of poster - a work of art for itself. We are encouraging artists and photographers to produce high quality work on the many subjects within SPORT, PHYSICAL EDUCATION, RECREATION, DANCE and the OLYMPIC GAMES that can be turned into posters. The IISOH posters that we will publish must also meet other criteria such as being of international interest - as opposed to merely local interest such as your local school or professional team. We are seeking works that are aesthetic, original or historical. Contemporary sports photography is welcomed as much as 18th and 19th century lithographs of sport. Old, historical images can be used in a creative way to promote an interest in the history of that sport. Our posters are intended to create interest in posters as an art form, sport in history, sport as an international phenomenon and a way of visually engaging the public for a specific sport or event.

We want to encourage artists to participate in this project. We invite artists and photographers everywhere to create sport-themed artwork for the IISOH. We will hold periodic contests with specific goals and rules. These events will be publicized. But we always encourage artist's open submissions for consideration.

If we accept a design and use it in a future poster then we will award the artist a small stipend not less than $100 and not more than $500. The copyright of the image must also be granted to the IISOH in perpetuity without restrictions on usage. All posters that we print will be the American size of 24 x 36 inches (final trimmed size). Artists are credited in the credit section of the poster as well as other IISOH publications. Our submission rule is quite simple: any artist may submit up to five(5) designs for a poster using our "submission form" (to be posted as a pdf documentsoon). A non-refundable fee of ten Dollars ($10.00) must be paid with the submission and up to five designs may submitted at the same time for the single fee.

The GYMNASTICS poster illustrated above is the first of six being prepared for this sport. There will be three posters illustrating males and another three illustrating females - all in action or strength poses. Each poster also has the word GYMNASTICS in at least ten languages. The posters do not promote a nation, a team or a famous athlete but they do promote the sport itself. In this gymnastics series we are encouraging sports photographers to take great photos of gymnasts in action. Naturally the photographer must identify the person in the image and obtain written permission to grant perpetual use of their image to the IISOH. In case the athlete is under the age of 18 then we require the written permission of the parent or guardian of the subject(s). No financial incentive is offered to the subjects however the IISOH policy is to give the subject(s) 20 free copies of the poster.

The SPORT IN ART POSTER SERIES is sold by the IISOH wholesale so that teams, groups, and the retail world can buy in bulk and resell the posters for a profit or use the posters as a fund-raiser. We desire to become a major poster publisher for the subject of Sport in Art.

The IISOH accepts donations in support of the SPORT IN ART POSTER SERIES. A donation of at least five thousand Dollars ($5,000) will enable the donor to have their name and logo in the credits section at the bottom of the poster. Each poster we publish has an "open edition" first printing of 5,000 copies plus a "limited edition" on heavier, archival paper of just 100 copies.

(listed in no particular order:)

  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • American Football
  • Soccer
  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Ice Hockey
  • Swimming
  • Track and field/Athletics
  • Fencing
  • Wrestling
  • Rowing
  • Sailing
  • Volleyball
  • Weight Lifting
  • Bodybuilding
  • Many others, in fact almost every sport!! We have plans for over 200 posters.

The International Institute for Sport History
-- IISOH --
has been created in order to develop a comprehensive
devoted to scholarly research and education in the
arts and humanities where it relates to the subjects of:

History of Sport
Physical Education
Sport in Art
Olympic Games

Read our complete MISSION STATEMENT here

The IISOH is unique in North America in its comprehensive mission
and seeks public, private and corporate financial support to achieve these goals.
The Board of Directors will express its gratitude to generous benefactors
by granting perpetual naming rights to fully funded endowments.

Donations to the IISOH are tax deductible.
Federal Tax ID# 41-2041155

to other IISOH pages

Contact the IISOH:
Mr. Harvey Abrams, President
International Institute for Sport History

PO Box 175
State College, PA, USA 16804

Coming in 2018 - an office in Vienna, Austria

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This page was created October 15, 2017
This page was updated October 30, 31, 2017
This page was updated November 4, 2017