Movie Posters by the Stenberg Brothers

by Denis on September 12, 2011

A few months ago, Adrian Curry over at MUBI wrote a fantastic post on the Stenberg Brothers who were a dominant and influential force in movie poster design in Russia during the 1920’s and 30’s.

What is extraordinary about the Stenbergs’ posters, beyond their amazingly expressive and dynamic use of color, composition and typography, which has rarely been equalled, is that, though they look like photomontage they are actually almost entirely illustration. The ever-inventive Stenbergs had constructed a prototype overhead-projector which would allow them to project filmstrips onto their posters and to copy and embellish faces and bodies (as well as to distort them if necessary), hence their photorealist look. This gave their posters a consistency and quality that would have not been possible to achieve, due to the limitations of the printing processes available at the time, by cutting and pasting photographs onto paper.

For additional insight on the creation process for these posters, here is an excerpt from Susan Pack‘s book Film Posters of the Russian Avant-Garde:

The quality of the posters is remarkable in view of the fact that the artists often had to rush to meet nearly impossible deadlines. Both Vladimir Stenberg and Mikhail Dlugach recalled that it was not unusual for them to see a film at three o’clock in the afternoon and be required to present the completed poster by ten o’clock the next morning. Further, the equipment for printing the posters was falling apart and the technology was primitive. The only printing presses available pre-dated the 1917 Revolution. Vladimir Stenberg recalled that some of the presses were so shaky that practically everything was held together by string.

Many times the artists had to create the posters without ever having seen the film. Especially with foreign films, the artists often had to work from only a brief summary of the film and publicity shots or a press kit from Hollywood. When one considers that the poster artists assumed their work would be torn down and thrown away after a few weeks, it is astonishing that they continued to strive to maintain such a high standard. Clearly, these innovative flights of the imagination do not deserve to be consigned to oblivion.

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by Denis on September 12, 2011

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