The Enduring Romance of Vintage Travel Posters
Vintage travel posters beg the question, where do you want to go today? Answer: everywhere. (Courtesy: Chisholm Larsson Gallery)
Over my desk, where I dream about my next trip — and I’m always dreaming about my next trip — hangs a poster from a film festival in Vladivostok. The big blue sky, lighthouse, and red plane somehow evoke for me my trip to this Russian city on the Pacific Coast, 11 time zones from Moscow.
I love the evocative nature of travel posters. Even more, I love those vintage images from another time before the Internet made trips easy and efficient. Times in the 1950s or ’60s, when your parents went over to the local travel agent to make vacation plans, where inevitably, on the wall, would be those exotic images of wonderful Copenhagen, or sexy France, or a TWA jet to take you to the kind of Las Vegas where ladies wore strapless gowns to hear the Rat Pack. From the time it began in the late 1800s, poster art was about communicating not just a place but an ambiance; the deliciously designed, highly colored, huge posters were big come-ons, an essential form of advertising for those yearning to travel, in their dreams or in real life.
It was by chance that I really discovered the astonishing scope of vintage travel posters years ago when I was wandering around New York City’s Chelsea. I found myself in front of the Chisholm Larssen Gallery, the windows hung with travel posters from every decade back to the 1900s. I went in and met Robert Chisholm and Lars Larsson who offered me espresso and a share of their peanut M&Ms and were (and still are) unbelievably patient as I looked through the posters — film, politics, sports, and most of all travel and transportation. Robert is American and adores travel; Lars is an extraordinarily well-traveled Swede who has lived in New York for decades.
"Travels With My Aunt" and "Assassinio sul Nilo" are movies — and posters — to make your passport itch. (Courtesy: Chisholm Larsson Gallery)
There is nothing Lars and Robert love so much as finding the right poster for a particular taste. Taking into account my passions for both travel and movies, they showed me a group of stunning, hilarious, affecting posters from films about travel: “Travels With My Aunt”; “Death on the Nile”; “Three Coins in a Fountain” (and the French version!); and best of all, “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium.”