Circus Art Is Created To Create Feelings Of Excitement And It Works.
The Circus Poster Hailed The Most Magical Time Of The Year… Circus Time!
I own the two circus posters pictured and a couple of more. Every time I look at them they make me smile and bring back wonderful memories of fantasy, fun and family. But they also represent so much more than that to me; they represent a colorful history and a captured moment in time.
As a child I would wander the downtown streets of Topeka. My mother was the Toy Department Manager At Pelletier’s Department Store and my Grandmother was the Children’s Department Manager at the same store. I spent a lot of time at the store but when I became bored the downtown streets became my playground.
I would walk the streets looking in store windows, browsing the book store for the newest comics and reading the fliers of coming events taped to store windows. When the circus posters appeared on the windows my excitement was untamed. The bright colors, laughing clowns, performers and animals rendered by skilled artists took my child’s mind into a world I wanted to live in.
Little did I know at the time was that many of my people, Romani, had been and still are circus performers. The history of Gypsy circus performers is a long one and maybe my desire to be part of it was something that is within my blood.
I would pester my mother and grandmother without mercy until they would say, “Yes, we are going to the circus.” I had daydreams of becoming a circus clown, making people laugh and yes… creating the artwork for the great posters that fueled those daydreams. But my talents took me down a different artistic path in my life though for a couple of years in the late 1990’s I did become a professional clown.
Where the circus started has been discussed by historians for years but it is believed that the modern circus began in the United Kingdom in 1768. Circuses needed to market themselves as they began to tour and their popularity grew, In the 18th and 19th centuries, circuses were truly the realm of magic and dreams.
Since circuses are often in a town for only a couple of days a sense of anticipation was necessary. The promoters of the circus this and so the circus poster was used to communicate the fantasy and excitement, and the momentary magic of a circus’ brief stay.
Circus promoters used some of the earliest forms of aggressive marketing, like saturation advertising. The urgency was necessary to lure attendees to an event that only happened nearby for one day out of the year. Circuses are not strangers to a little bit of exaggeration and the circus poster reflects this. Headlines such as ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ or “Renowned Great Show”, written in bold type and colorful font were used to entice potential attendees. The circus poster used stylized printing techniques, with the use of lithography, which gave circus posters their vivid, colorful look.
Circus posters capture the color of the circus, animal images and the carnival atmosphere of the circus show. Circus poster are remarkable artform and those who collect them appreciate the unique aspect of the art. I have collected circus poster images from all over the world and from all periods of time but by far, in my opinion, the American Circus Poster is the most colorful and artistic.
The artistic aspect of circus posters help correct misnomers and stereotypes around the circus. Fear of clowns or misinformation put forth by well meaning animal rights groups can all be dispelled by looking at a circus poster. Movies like “Killer Clowns from Outer Space” or Stephen Kings “It” helped nurture a fear of clowns. But how can someone look at the smiling and cheerful face of the clown on a circus poster and be afraid?
Likewise the animals portrayed on the posters echo the actual animals of the circus. The animals show, within the poster, that they are well cared for and loved, so it is with the actual circus animals. American Circus animals, just like American zoo animals, are governed by rules and regulations set up by the Federal Government and closely monitored by the Humane Society of America.
Circus posters lesson the fear of clowns and dispel misinformation about circus animals through artistic interpretation and a high level of integrity. Some of the greatest Circus Posters ever designed were by Ringling Brothers Barnum-Bailey Circus. They preserve and record the history of the circus; animals, clown and performers. Circus posters keep the excitement and anticipation of the magic and fantasy alive.
It will always alive in me and I will always continue to smile and be uplifted whenever I look at the art of the Circus Poster.