The Complete Harper’s Posters, 1893-1899

Harper’s Posters for 1893

Harper & Brothers began publication of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine with the June 1850 issue. It changed its name to Harper’s Monthly Magazine for the Christmas 1900 issue. Artist Edward Penfield served the Harpers in varying capacities — staff illustrator, art editor, art director — from 1890 to 1901.

A1
Poster by Edward Penfield for Harper's New Monthly Magazine, March 1893
HARPER’S | FOR | MARCH
[Poster for Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Mar 1893]. Three-color lithograph: pale brown, red-brown and black. New York: Harper & Brothers, published c.1893. Unsigned. 11 7/16" w. x 16 1/2" h.

Sometimes cited as his first for Harper’s, this rare poster was most probably the first design proposed to Harper and Brothers for approval of the poster series. Unsigned, some think it may not be Penfield’s, as two years later he stated his first poster was for the April Harper’s. But the style is undoubtedbly his.

“When a poster deadline came due,” wrote illustrator Walt Reed, “Penfield volunteered to fill the breach and overnight produced the first of a long series of distinctive posters that made Penfield’s reputation as the father of the American Poster Movement.”

Penfield’s thematic views often centered on the seasons. Here, we see a young woman coping with the brisk spring winds of New York. Compare to the April showers of 1893 (A2) and 1894 (A13).

Poster by Edward Penfield for Harper's New Monthly Magazine, March 1893 Poster by Edward Penfield for Harper's New Monthly Magazine, April 1893 Poster by Edward Penfield for Harper's New Monthly Magazine, April 1894

Ref: DFP, 320; Margolin, pg 32.

A2
Poster by Edward Penfield for Harper's New Monthly Magazine, April 1893
HARPER’S | FOR | APRIL
HARPER’S | NEW MONTHLY | MAGAZINE | APRIL  [Text on magazine cover]

[Poster for Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Apr 1893]. Man in green coat, standing in rain, reading Harper’s. Three-color lithograph on salmon-colored paper: red-brown, green and black. New York: Harper & Brothers, published Mar 1893. Initialed lower center: EP, enclosed in box. 11 15/16" w. x 18 5/8"h.

“My first decorative poster was done for Harper & Brothers for their April, ‘Magazine,’ 1893,” wrote Penfield to a newspaper editor. “It was only an experiment and was done long before I ever heard of Lautrec or Steinlen as poster designers.”

Penfield’s first poster to be widely published in the series was well received by the public — and by critics alike. “It was unlike anything seen in the land before. It was a poster which forced itself upon one: in design and colour it was striking, and yet it was supremely simple throughout...” reported Herbert Stone in The Chap-Book. “The poster was distinctly successful; it was theoretically as well as practically good. The artist had attained his ends by the suppression of details: there were no un-necessary lines.”

Ref: DFP, 321; Johnson, 231; Swann-2016, 5.

A3
Poster by Edward Penfield for Harper's New Monthly Magazine, May 1893
HARPER’S | for | MAY
HARPER’S | NEW MONTHLY | MAGAZINE | MAY | 1893  [Text on magazine cover]

[Poster for Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, May 1893]. Girl in white Spring dress, standing by Maypole with Harper’s. Four-color lithograph: blue, yellow, pale brown and red. New York: Harper & Brothers, published Apr 1893. Unsigned. 13" w. x 18 7/8" h.

In this poster, Penfield was visibly influenced by the painterly style of overlapping background colors in Jules Cheret’s recent work. His inspiration came from Richard Harding Davis, managing editor of Harper’s Weekly, who had freshly returned from an extended European trip. Davis was often sent abroad “on numerous reportorial missions, some of which made up his six nonfiction titles catalogued in 1900.”

“Richard Harding Davis asked me to make a poster for his book ‘Our English Cousins,’ and showed me about a dozen French posters,” wrote Penfield, “which were the first I had seen.”

Ref: Union, 82; Bolton, pg 11; MCMA, 218; Whitehead, pg 36; Echo, 326; DFP, 322; Hawkes, pg 7; Lauder, 139; Swann-2016, 6.

A4
Poster by Edward Penfield for Harper's New Monthly Magazine, June 1893
HARPER’S | for | JUNE
[Poster for Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Jun 1893]. Woman picking roses, with Harper’s in-hand. Four-color lithograph on brown paper: blue, pale brown, red and green. New York: Harper & Brothers, published May 1893. Signed lower center: EDWARD | PENFIELD. 12 9/16" w. x 18 5/16" h.

Ref: Union, 84; MCMA, 219; Whitehead, pg 36; DFP, 323; Lauder, 140; Swann-2016, 7.

Title
[Poster for Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Jul 1893]. No poster has been located for this month. Not by Penfield?

Do you know about this item? Submit your information here.

A5
Poster by Edward Penfield for Harper's New Monthly Magazine, August 1893
HARPER’S | AUGUST
[Poster for Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Aug 1893]. Well dressed man at World's Columbian Exhibition, standing with Harper’s. Four-color lithograph: light brown, blue, green and red-brown. New York: Harper & Brothers, published Jul 1893. Signed bottom left: EDWARD | PENFIELD. 13 1/2" w. x 19 1/4" h.

Highly publicized in advance, the Columbian Exhibition was a sensation when it opened in May of 1893. Jackson Park, or the ‘Great White City,’ as it was known, was built up from 633 acres of marshland to celebrate the four-hundredth anniversary of the New World’s discovery.

Ref: Union, 84; MCMA, 221; Whitehead, pg 36; DFP, 324; Lauder, 141; Swann-1941, 351; Swann-2016, 8.

A6
Poster by Edward Penfield for Harper's New Monthly Magazine, September 1893
HARPER’S | SEPT.
[Poster for Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Sep 1893]. Woman on porch stairs with Harper’s. Three-color lithograph: light brown, red and blue. New York: Harper & Brothers, published Aug 1893. Signed bottom left: EDWARD | PENFIELD. 12 1/16" w. x 18 7/16" h.

Note: over the years that Penfield worked for Harper’s, the size of the magazine depicted got smaller and smaller, and soon there was no cover typography depicted. In his later posters, he dispensed depicting the magazine altogether.

Ref: Union, 89; MCMA, 222; Whitehead, pg 36; DFP, 325; Lauder, 142; Swann-1941, 352; Swann-2016, 9.

A7
Poster by Edward Penfield for Harper's New Monthly Magazine, October 1893
HARPER’S | OCTOBER
[Poster for Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Oct 1893]. Woman traveller with tennis racket case, carrying her pet dog. Four-color lithograph: blue, light brown, yellow and red. New York: Harper & Brothers, published Sep 1893. Signed lower center: EDWARD | PENFIELD. 11 7/16" w. x 16 5/8" h.

Ref: Union, 92; Quincy, 157; MCMA, 223; Whitehead, pg 36; DFP, 326; Lauder, 143; Swann-2016, 10.

A8
Poster by Edward Penfield for Harper's New Monthly Magazine, November 1893
HARPER’S | NOVEMBER
[Poster for Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Nov 1893]. Woman in cab, buying Harper’s from newsboy. Four-color lithograph: grey, yellow, blue and red. New York: Harper & Brothers, published Oct 1893. Signed lower right: EDWARD | PENFIELD. 13 1/2" w. x 19 1/2" h.

First use of multiple models in the series, as well as first appearance of the horse and coach — an important theme to come.

Ref: Union, 94; La Plume, pg 444; MCMA, 224; Whitehead, pg 36; DFP, 327; Lauder, 144; Swann-1941, 353; Swann-2016, 11.

A9
Poster by Edward Penfield for Harper's New Monthly Magazine, December 1893
HARPER’S | CONTENTS | [contents] | CHRISTMAS NUMBER
[Poster for Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Dec 1893]. Woman in front of fireplace at left, table of December’s contents at right. Four-color lithograph and letterpress: grey, yellow, red and black. New York: Harper & Brothers, published Nov 1893. Initialed lower center: E.P. 12" w. x 18 1/2" h.

This poster returns to a more painterly style, closer to that which Penfield used when illustrating stories in Harper’s Weekly during 1892-1893. Here, he experiments with colorbuilds of the four inks to impart a lifelike representation of his wash drawing. The January and February 1894 posters are also a departure from Penfield’s developing bold, planar style.

Ref: MCMA, 225; Whitehead, pg 36; Echo, 327; not in DFP; Lauder, 145; Swann-1941, 354; Swann-2016, 12.