The Michael O’Connor Poster Collection comprising over 2,800 items is currently on show at the Limerick City Gallery of Art. This wonderful Collection which features a wide range of poster styles and designs sourced from all over the world offers a illuminating insight into this unique Art form.
Michael O’Connor was the eldest of a family of six boys born to the late Michael and Mary O’Connor. For many years they ran a successful bar and grocery business from their home at Patrick Street, Listowel, Co. Kerry. Drawing and painting was one of Micheal’s great passions and over the years he built up a significant and very valuable poster print collection. His vast and varied collection included works by many well known international figures like Matthies Holger (1940) and Hans Hillman (1925).
For over two hundred years, posters have been displayed in public places all over the world. Visually striking, they have been designed to attract the attention of passers-by, making us aware of a political viewpoint, enticing us to attend specific events, or encouraging us to purchase a particular product or service. The modern poster dates back to the mid-nineteenth century when colour lithography was perfected making made mass production of large and inexpensive images possible.
Toulouse-Lautrec’s legendary first poster, Moulin Rouge (which he created in 1891) elevated the status of the poster to fine art and launched a new level of fascination with posters as an art form. The Belle Epoque in France was a period of peace and optimism marked by industrial progress, and a particularly rich cultural resurgence that saw this movement established itself with widespread poster exhibitions and specialist magazines, soon Art dealers specialising in posters proliferated. A few year later Alphonse Mucha, a Czech painter, illustrator and graphic artist, living in Paris, created the first masterpiece of Art Nouveau poster design. Influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites and Byzantine art – this intricate, highly decorative style became the major international art movement up until 1914 when the onset of the first world war saw it decline in popularity as people were confronted with new realities.
Michael O’Connor Collection was donated to Limerick City Gallery of Art (LCGA) in the late 1980’s and the current showing features a range of posters from Michael’s 2800 strong collection. The eclectic selection is a wonderful visual feast of colour and style and re-enforces the potential of ‘the poster’ as a simple but powerful visual art medium.