Every day, we’re inundated with ads for the newest devices and pills that claim to improve our well-being. Often times we laugh and scoff at such remedies, but once in a while we’re irresistibly drawn to an ad that creates a picture of a happier you, thanks to a certain product (and only four payments of $9.99).
Advertisements for health products is nothing new, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art has an exhibit that showcases posters for health remedies from around the world going as far back as the mid-1800’s that were collected by William H. Helfand. Some have more medical backing than others, but all present an interesting look into medical history.
Here’s a description of the exhibit and its collector:
In the mid 1950s, William H. Helfand began to collect prints with medical subjects, gradually moving his focus from fine to popular art. Over four decades, he has donated more than one thousand posters, prints, and ephemera to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This exhibition presents some fifty of the nearly two hundred posters in this collection. A selection of the posters show the work of prominent artists such as JulesChéret (French, 1836–1932) and Leonetto Cappiello (French, born Italy, 1875–1942). Chéret’s large, colorful lithographs—achieved by printing from multiple stones—elevated the commercial placard to the rank of art. Cappiello’s arresting figures, which he silhouetted against neutral backgrounds and linked to the product being advertised, revolutionized twentieth-century poster design. Additional examples demonstrate the wide range of compositions produced by unidentified artists working in Europe and the United States between the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These posters address a wide range of topics, such as promoting hygiene, announcing medical conferences, and advertising miracle cures.
If you’re in the Philadelphia area, the exhibit runs through July 31. Otherwise, you can also take a look at exhibit online.
From the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Health for Sale: Posters from the William H. Helfand Collection…
More information on the exhibit from the New York Times: Spoonfuls of Medicine, Marketed for Centuries…