The Hatch Show Print Exhibit

At the risk of overpromoting something which I’ve already given some attention to, I did get a chance to go to the last day of the Hatch Show Print exhibit at the Austin Museum of Art last weekend. Although it was certainly not the largest poster exhibit I’ve been to, for the specialized subject which it covered it really did exceed my expectations and the preview I published here earlier. I’ve also found more useful resources, including a video about the show (below) and the main page for the show at the Smithsonian which is the main sponsor. Their site also has the schedule for the show, which is going to make its next appearance at the Boston University Art Museum in November. Apparently the schedule is open between now and then, which I find surprising, because it’s an excellent show for a small museum or even a large library to host.

The show was had much to offer which I hadn’t expected. It included not only an excellent variety of posters spanning more than 100 years of history, starting with a poster for a speech by Lyman Beecher in the 1870s and ending with a section of posters for contemporary bands. The posters were accompanied by sample print blocks, including some of extraordinary size and some which had clearly seen a lot of use. There was also an interactive section for kids to try out some basic block printing techniques.

What really stood out to me among the many posters were some of the state fair posters and posters from shows at the Grand Ole Opry which demonstrated the creative combination of set type and wood block art to great effectiveness. From a historical perspective I was also intrigued by the several movie posters included in the show, particularly the two-tone poster for Island of Lost Souls, because they were made for movies from the 1940s and 1950s which certainly had regular four-color posters available, but for which Hatch was commissioned to make simpler letterpress posters, presumably to cater to the southern market. From a historical perspective the most surprising thing was a beautifully preserved poster from the 1920s advertising the “Rabbit Foot Minstrels” with a fantastic illustration of dancers in minstrel garb and black-face. That’s the kind of historical artifact which really grabs the imagination, and which (not surprisingly) I couldn’t find on the show website.

If you have an interest in printing and graphic arts, this is a show you really shouldn’t miss, though opportunities to see it may be rather limited. Go to your local museum curator and tell him or her to call the Smithsonian and book the show. You won’t be disappointed.

If the show doesn’t end up coming to your town, Hatch sells their classic posters online through their very impressive website. Or if you want to make an oldstyle letterpress poster on your own, we can at least help you with the right fonts. We have a lot of fonts in that same letterpress tradition, particularly in our Wild West and Colonial Fonts collections.

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