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The Art of Food and Drink at The International Poster Gallery

Italian food and drink is often on display along Newbury Street, but starting October 1 you’ll be able to see it in a new light. The International Poster Gallery is hosting an exhibition dedicated to cuisine that is entitled Posters a la Carte: The Art of Food and Drink, on display through November 22.

Erberto Carboni, "Barilla," 1952.  Lithograph, 39 x 54 inches.

Erberto Carboni, “Barilla,” 1952. Lithograph, 39 x 54 inches.

The new exhibit presents the development of the food and drink industry through posters, covering the period from the Belle Époque to the 1960s and including iconic brands from around the globe, including the likes of Barilla and Campari.

For gallery owner Jim Lapides, the decision to curate an exhibit on culinary brands was simple. Not only is food and drink one of the major categories in poster art, but it’s also very popular as decoration for dining spaces, both in the home and in restaurants. Plus, Lapides had plenty of works to choose from, as the gallery presently houses about 300 food and drink posters. In the end, though, he chose 45 to highlight in Posters a la Carte.

“We have tons of great images, not only from Italy but also from France and Austria and the United States,” Lapides says of the exhibit. “But some of the classics – some of my favorites – are Italian.”

Among those classic Italian posters are brands we still recognize today. For example, the exhibition features a 1926 advertisement for Campari along with a 1936 poster promoting Bertozzi Parmigiano-Reggiano and Barilla’s 1952 campaign for ‘la pasta del buon appetito.’

And while we often think about the likes of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci when we consider Italian art, Lapides says the country’s contribution to the poster industry is notable as well.

Achille Mauzan, "Bonomelli," 1922.  Lithograph, 37.5 x 54 inches.

Achille Mauzan, “Bonomelli,” 1922. Lithograph, 37.5 x 54 inches.

“I studied Italian Renaissance art,” he explains. “I fell in love with Italian posters because they had a lot of the same grandness and classicism that the Italian painting and art going back to the Renaissance had. Italian posters were never very well known because they were competing with all those old masters, but you have to look at that tradition as a really important one in the world of posters.”

Lapides explains that the Italian poster tradition grew out of the country’s opera and indeed takes a cue from the theatrical art form in its aesthetic.

“It was big, it was grand, and very classically colorful,” he says of the early opera-inspired poster.

“As opposed to the French poster, which is maybe a little bit more gay, the Italian poster has a little bit more guts to it, more earth tones. It’s truly more classic.”

Lapides adds that one of the most important printers of early poster art was Ricordi, a company renowned for publishing the great operatic works of the time, including those of Verdi and Puccini. Ricordi began to print posters as a way of promoting these operas, and its 1895 advertisement for La Bohème, according to Lapides, marks the true beginning of poster art in Italy.

Achille Mauzan, "Bertozzi Parmigiano - Reggiano," 1936.  Lithograph, 39.5 x 55 inches.

Achille Mauzan, “Bertozzi Parmigiano – Reggiano,” 1936. Lithograph, 39.5 x 55 inches.

Colored advertising posters for operas and other goods and services have been seen as collectors’ items ever since they began to decorate the streets of Paris in the 1870s. Though they went out of fashion for some time, the modern market for this kind of artwork dates back to 1969 and, according to Lapides, it has grown steadily ever since. Today, posters are internationally accepted as a form of art and decoration, not to mention they are accessible to diverse collectors, with a wide range of price points and topics available.

“I have a ton of friends who I’ve met through business,” Lapides remarks.

“The best part is when I go to their homes and I see things that they’ve bought over the last 15 or 20 years. Now it’s not the walls of the gallery, it’s the walls of their house and it really reflects their passions and interests. I think that’s one of the joys of the poster field and collecting art in general.”

Posters a la Carte: The Art of Food and Drink is on display at The International Poster Gallery from October 1 through November 22. See www.internationalposter.com for opening hours and other details. All posters in the exhibition are available for sale.

Marcello Nizzoli, "Campari l'Apertivo," 1926.  Lithograph, 37 x 53 inches.

Marcello Nizzoli, “Campari l’Apertivo,” 1926. Lithograph, 37 x 53 inches.

About Briana Palma

Briana Palma is a writer and editor who splits her time between Boston and Dublin, Ireland. Her work focuses on travel, art and lifestyle, and as an Italian-American, she especially enjoys writing about all things Italy. Briana's work has appeared in a number of print and digital publications, including Italy Magazine, the Sunday Business Post Magazine, Outsider and U.S. Airways. For more information, visit www.brianapalma.com.