www.MadMenArt.com is a privately funded non-profit project that aims to help enhance culture and education. Visitors will gain an insight into the fascinating world of graphic advertising, which provides a unique impression of the spirit of the age. More than 12,000 vintage designs from over 50 countries and spanning a period from 1891 to 1970 are featured on the website. Every day, a particular part of the collection is showcased. Visitors can also explore the collection using their own search terms and share their favorite designs with friends.
Thank you for visiting our site.
- 1. The Aim of Mad Men Art
- 2. Share
- 3. Search
- 4. The Idea
- 5. The Mad Men Art Collection: 1891–1970
- 6. Themes
- 7. Quality
- 8. Copyright
- 9. Acknowledgements
- 10. Links
- 11. Disclaimer
- 12. Contact
- 13. Media
„Mad Men Art“ is a privately funded non-profit project that aims to promote culture and education. Unlike other websites with similar content, we present our pictures in particularly effective way and offer an interface that is designed to be as user-friendly as possible.
We provide key share functions for each picture, so you can share your favorite motifs with your friends.
Find out what was on trend and what captured people’s attention in the year you were born (before 1971). As well as browsing through the listed categories, you can also find pictures in the search tool based on specific key words. Simply enter the term you are looking for (e.g. 1958, Coca-Cola, Marilyn Monroe, Oldsmobile, Lucky Strike, Switzerland, Life magazine, etc.) to generate your own customized list of results.
Many years ago, while visiting an antiques store in Destin, Florida, one of our founders came across a collection of car advertisements from the The Saturday Evening Post and other magazines dating back to the 1940s and 1950s. He couldn’t resist buying 15 of these little works of art – this was the moment that sparked his passionate interest in graphic advertising, awakening his curiosity and laying the very first foundations for the “Mad Men Art” project.
We are fascinated by the creativity and impact of graphic advertising. We firmly believe that advertising can be a form of art, and we are keen to share our love of these vintage posters, ads and magazine covers with our visitors. We invite you to join us on a colorful journey through time, exploring all kinds of epochs, artistic movements, graphic styles and milestones in the history of mankind. A different part of the collection is showcased every day.
„Mad Men Art“ is not a scientific collection, with information about each item documented in as much detail as possible. Our main focus is on what catches the eye and stirs the emotions. We offer an opportunity to „awaken a love and understanding of good art, even in those who would not otherwise come into contact with it.” (Walter von Zur Westen, a German collector and publisher, December 31, 1871 – April 19, 1948).
In our view, the most interesting period in graphic advertising began in 1891, when artists such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec enriched the world of advertising with their creative masterpieces. Even back then, posters were treated and collected as works of art. Our collection covers a time span of 80 years, ending in 1970 when poster advertising declined significantly due to the widespread popularity of television.
During the course of our research, it has become clear to us that virtually nothing embodies the spirit of an age more vividly than advertising. Unlike the written word, graphic advertising conveys its message primarily through visual depictions of values and emotions. Each image gives us a clear impression of the needs that prevailed or were emerging at the time it was created, and what was considered desirable and modern. In this respect, the collection provides an exceptionally illustrative and surprisingly comprehensive account of 80 years of human development.
In choosing pieces for the collection, we have allowed ourselves to be guided by our individual taste – our subjective idea of what is beautiful, well-designed, technically sophisticated, potentially groundbreaking, and, ultimately, what could be considered art.
The collection takes you through all of the key artistic movements – Cubism, Futurism, Dadaism, Expressionism, Constructivism, etc. – as well as distinctive styles such as Art Nouveau, Belle Epoque, Art Deco, International Typographic Style, Swiss Style, and many more.
“Mad Men” is a self-deprecating name for the creative people employed in the advertising industry, and our collection is dedicated to them and their work. It is interesting to see the paths pursued by these creative individuals over the years and the pitfalls they encountered in their efforts to convey advertising messages to consumers with even greater impact. One of the distinctive highlights is undoubtedly the tobacco advertising produced during the 1950s and 1960s.
We have also taken a distinctive approach when it comes to categorizing the collection. With one exception, we have deliberately avoided classifying the works based on individual motifs. Instead, we have attempted to create a more dynamic and contrasting system by limiting the categorization to eight overarching themes. Visitors can also create their own themes using the search function (see 3. Search).
The essential purpose of advertising is to generate new needs and thus stimulate consumption. In this category, we can see how attempts are made to establish products in our everyday lives or to attract potential customers by penetrating new segments. It includes advertising for food, drinks, household appliances, housing, cosmetics, fashion, and cigarettes as well as for magazines, leisure activities, sport, events and culture. Through this graphic art, we witness economic upturns, encounter delighted people and catch a glimpse inside fully stocked refrigerators.
Since sex appeal is based on subjective perceptions, it is not an easily definable concept. It is associated with characteristics such as self-confidence, a sense of physical well-being, the ability to communicate, humor, and intelligence, as well as – in general – people who are socially successful and satisfied with themselves and with life. However, sex appeal is primarily understood as a combination of an attractive appearance and sexual charisma.
The blurred line between sex appeal and sexism is forever being crossed in advertising too. However, research shows that where exactly this line lies varies significantly depending on the perception of individual viewers. The term “sexism,” which shares the same suffix and negative connotations as the word “racism,” was coined during the feminist movement in 1960s America.
Sex appeal is both the easiest conceivable way to make an advertising message attractive and, in the case of some products, the most effective. Sex appeal works by capturing people’s attention first, then stimulating their imagination, conjuring up fantasies that are associated with the product being advertised in a positive way that reinforces people’s desire to buy it. This principle can be seen applied more or less subtly in various forms throughout the 1891 to 1970 period, with the Art Nouveau pieces in particular proving surprisingly promiscuous.
Our collection features over 2,000 vintage designs which could be said to have sex appeal. These include images of beautiful people, movie stars and TV celebrities, as well as cosmetics, fashion, drinks, cigarettes or cars. Yet magazines, airlines, spa resorts and manufacturers of bicycles and coffee are also among the advertisers who have used sex appeal to vie for the public’s attention.
For a long time, cars were arguably the most advertised product of all, especially in US magazines. The first pieces of graphic advertising we acquired were 15 full-page ads for cars that were published in The Saturday Evening Post and other magazines in the 1940s and 50s. They are the cornerstone of our collection.
In 1895, there were around 300 cars on the road in the USA. In 1970 – the latest point in our collection – almost 30,000,000 cars were produced worldwide (2013: 88,000,000). No other product offers a better reflection of the spirit of the age, progress, wealth and the importance of mobility than the car. That is why we have dedicated an entire category to this exceptional commodity and status symbol, singling it out as a unique motif. The advertisements in this category feature well over 2,000 of the finest vintage cars from all eras, highlighting the pride and sense of freedom felt by people who owned vehicles like these. Of course, the advertisers were also particularly keen to portray the admiration and envy of those who did not (yet) own one.
Aside from the consumption of goods, mobility and travel in particular grew to an unprecedented extent between 1891 and 1970. We would find it hard to imagine the kind of astronomical development that people born at the end of the 19th century witnessed in this area. They saw things that were deemed impossible at the time of their birth transformed into reality:
1891: Work begins on building the Trans-Siberian Railway (the longest railway in the world).
1897: Oldsmobile, the first major automobile brand, starts producing cars.
1912: The Titanic embarks on its maiden voyage and sinks.
1927: Charles Lindbergh completes the first solo flight across the Atlantic.
1969: Apollo 11 lands on the moon.
The advertisements in this category feature travel destinations all over the world, reached by bicycle, motorbike, train, boat or airplane. They also show people looking for adventure in some far-off place, conveying the message that the whole world – or perhaps a part of it, depending on their budget – is their oyster.
More than 100 wars were fought in the period between 1891 and 1970, but many vintage posters, ads and magazine covers originate from the following conflicts in particular:
1914–1918: First World War
1917–1920: Russian Civil War
1927–1949: Chinese Civil War
1931–1933: Manchurian War
1936–1939: Spanish Civil War
1937–1945: Second Sino-Japanese War
1939–1945: Second World War
1947–1949: Arab-Israeli War
1950–1953: Korean War
1954–1962: Algerian War
1957–1975: Vietnam War
1967: Six-Day War
In times of war, advertising was primarily used for propaganda. It is striking to note that all conflicting parties use very similar means, exploiting similar enemy stereotypes, fears, appeals and symbols. The main differences in propaganda advertising lie in the way in which the concept of patriotism is expressed.
This category features themes and motifs such as psychological warfare, the glorification of war, heroism, stereotypical portrayals of the enemy, munitions, war bonds, appeals for vigilance, thrift, discretion, productivity and consumer goods that were promoted in connection with images of war. Despots, leaders and revolutionaries are pictured in these works, as are children, heroes, perpetrators, victims, soldiers and civilians. However, very few of them portray the immeasurable suffering caused by all these wars.
Other themes include pre- and post-war propaganda, political systems and the Cold War, in which we also include space travel (the Space Race).
The detail views category features 1,500 details from vintage posters, advertisements and magazine covers that we particularly like.
Our TIME-line category contains a selection of 700 vintage Time magazine covers, dating from the first edition in 1923 through to 1970. Almost 3,000 issues of the magazine were published during this period. You can fast-forward through history by tracing this chronological timeline of cover personalities – a unique kind of “Who’s Who.” In selecting the covers for our collection, we have tried to emphasize the global scope of this US-oriented magazine. Copyright for all Time magazine covers © Time Inc., New York: www.time.com
The quality of the graphic works varies considerably. Some of them are now more than 120 years old, and even the most recent pieces date back over 40 years. Some of the originals are therefore showing distinct signs of age. To improve the quality of the images wherever it is possible and practical to do so, we have spent hundreds of hours digitally restoring around 6,000 of the works shown here.
„Mad Men Art“ is a privately funded non-profit project that aims to help enhance culture and education. Visitors will gain an insight into the fascinating world of vintage graphic advertising. The website is not used to generate any advertising revenue.
No images are offered for sale or sold on this website. No copies or reprints of the images shown are produced, offered for sale or sold.
Some of the images shown are protected by copyright. “Mad Men Art” publishes these images in accordance with the principle of fair use for the purpose of public education:
All brand names, logos, designs, slogans and text visible on the images are the property of the respective authors or companies. The company or brand that each advertisement relates to, insofar as this is known, is named in the title of the image in question.
We also take copyright into account by displaying the images in a low resolution of only 550 pixels (height or width). This is intended to prevent third parties from using the images for professional or commercial purposes.
If you own the copyright to a particular image and do not want it to be shown as part of the “Mad Men Art” project, please inform us of this by sending an e-mail to Curator [at] MadMenArt.com. We will then remove the image concerned from the collection immediately.
Essential copyright information and acknowledgements:
- American Airlines, American Airlines Group, Fort Worth, USA: www.aa.com
- Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch InBev N.V., Leuven, Belgium: www.ab-inbev.com
- Buick, General Motors Company, Detroit, USA: www.buick.com
- Cadillac, General Motors Company, Detroit, USA: www.cadillac.com
- Camel, J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Winston-Salem, USA: www.RJRT.com
- Canadian Pacific Railway, Calgary, Canada: www.cpr.ca
- Chesterfield, Philip Morris International Inc., New York: www.pmi.com
- Chevrolet, General Motors Company, Detroit, USA: www.chevrolet.com
- Chrysler, Chrysler Group LLC, Auburn Hills, USA: www.chrysler.com
- Coca-Cola, The Coca-Cola Company, Atlanta, USA: www.coca-cola.com
- Cosmopolitan Magazine Covers © Hearst Corporation, New York, USA: www.cosmopolitan.com
- Cunard Line, Southampton, Hampshire, UK and Santa Clarita, USA: www.cunard.com
- DeSoto, Chrysler Group LLC, Auburn Hills, USA: www.chryslergroupllc.com (defunct 1961)
- Dodge, Chrysler Group LLC, Auburn Hills, USA: www.dodge.com
- Ford, Ford Motor Company, Dearborn, USA: www.ford.com
- Fortune Magazine Covers © Time Inc., New York, USA: www.fortune.com
- Good Housekeeping Magazine Covers © Hearst Corporation, New York, USA: www.goodhousekeeping.com
- Greyhound Lines, Dallas, USA: www.greyhound.com
- Jantzen Swimwear, Portland, USA: www.jantzen.com
- Ladies Home Journal Covers © Meredith Corporation, Des Moines, USA: www.lhj.com
- La Vie Parisienne Covers © Time La Vie Parisienne, Paris, France (defunct 1970)
- LIFE Magazine Covers © Time Inc., New York, USA: www.life.com
- Lincoln, The Lincoln Motor Company, Dearborn, USA: www.lincoln.com
- London Underground, London, UK: www.tfl.gov.uk
- Lucky Strike, British American Tobacco plc, London, UK: www.bat.com
- Marlboro, Philip Morris International Inc., New York: www.pmi.com
- Mercedes-Benz, Stuttgart, Germany: www.mercedes-benz.com
- Mercury, Dearborn, USA: www.mercuryvehicles.com (defunct 2011)
- New York Central Railroad, New York, USA (defunct 1970)
- Oldsmobile, Lansing, USA: www.oldsmobile.com (defunct 2004)
- Packard, Detroit, USA (defunct 1958)
- Pan American World Airways, New York and Miami, USA (defunct 1991)
- Pepsi-Cola, PepsiCo Inc., Purchase, USA: www.pepsi.com
- Playboy Magazine Covers © Playboy Enterprises, Beverly Hills, USA: www.playboy.com
- Plymouth, Auburn Hills, USA (defunct 2001)
- Pontiac, Detroit, USA: www.pontiac.com (defunct 2010)
- Santa Fe Railway, Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, Chicago, USA (defunct 1996)
- Shell Oil Company, Huston, USA: www.shell.com
- Smirnoff Vodka, Diageo plc, London, UK: www.smirnoff.com
- Southern Pacific Transportation Company, San Francisco, USA (defunct 1996)
- Studebaker Corporation, South Bend, USA (defunct 1967)
- The Saturday Evening Post Covers © Saturday Evening Post Society, Indianapolis, USA: www.saturdayeveningpost.com
- Time Magazine Covers © Time Inc., New York, USA: www.time.com
- Trans World Airlines, Fort Worth, USA (defunct 2001)
- United Airlines, Chicago, USA: www.united.com
- Vespa, Pontedera, Italy: www.vespa.com
- Vogue Magazine Covers © Condé Nast, New York, USA: www.vogue.com
- VW Volkswagen, Wolfsburg, Germany: www.volkswagen.com
- and many more
Our particular thanks go to:
Fox Computers – web design and development (Switzerland), for the technical implementation of our website and for providing excellent support: www.foxcomputers.ch
Below is a list of additional interesting, non-commercial links relating to vintage graphic advertising.
Gallery of Graphic Design
Advertisements, supplemented with very detailed information about their origins and publication date, etc.
Digital Poster Collection
Advertisements, with detailed categorization by product, manufacturer, brand, etc.
James Vaughan (x-ray delta one) on Flickr
A large selection of pop culture images and advertisements.
Old Car Advertisements
A website specializing in advertisements for cars.
Alden Jewell on Flickr
A large selection of vintage cars.
11.1 Information and Content
The information contained within this website is aimed at users of MadMenArt.com.
We compile our information according to our best knowledge and belief and endeavor to keep it up-to-date. In particular, we reserve the right to update and/or modify this data at any time and without prior notification or information, or to remove it wholly or partially from the website. Please note that we cannot assume liability for content which is incorrect or no longer up-to-date and thereby expressly exclude such liability.
In the case of misuse of the information contained on the website or of the information systems upon which it is based, legal action may be brought against the persons responsible.
Although we always endeavor to maintain reliable functioning and operability of the data codes obtained through our website, we take no responsibility for any potential damage caused in connection with them. In particular, please take into account that such data codes are also at risk of being modified (by viruses, for example, amongst other things), because of their transmission via a public network. We cannot offer any support nor can we assume liability for complications, system failures and other damages resulting from this.
The vendor assumes no liability for offers made via hyperlinks on its website. We also assume no responsibility or liability for website content which is opened in the foreground or the background via hyperlinks on our website.
11.3. Modifications to this Disclaimer
The vendor reserves the right to modify the Disclaimer at any time.
„Mad Men Art“ is a privately funded non-profit project that aims to help enhance culture and education. Visitors will gain an insight into the fascinating world of vintage graphic advertising.
You can contact us at the following e-mail address: Curator [at] MadMenArt.com
We welcome any feedback.
Mad Men Art
Marco Fritz, Curator