Posters celebrate Carnival themes
By Erin Landau, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, February 10, 2012
Dartmouth’s Winter Carnival posters are a popular way to commemorate each year’s festivities, with designs ranging from ancient Romans skiing down mountains to Mickey Mouse painting Baker Tower. The first Winter Carnival poster depicted a skier mid-jump above evergreen trees and was designed by Walter Humphries, a member of the Class of 1914.
After 1911, Winter Carnival posters took a hiatus and students did not design Winter Carnival posters for the big weekend again until a school-wide poster competition began in 1932. Since 1966, each poster has reflected the theme, according to College archivist Peter Carini. Until the 1950s, the design contest was open to the public, and the winning designs generally came from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.
“It’s interesting to see the whole range of posters and it gives you a sense of how concepts in graphic design have changed over time,” Carini said. “The earlier ones were all about skiing but the newer ones are more focused on the theme.”
Carini said he particularly likes the posters from the 1930s and 1940s because they are graphically interesting and he has a replica of one of these posters hanging in his office in Rauner Library.
“The Winter Carnival poster is the greatest thing that Dartmouth did for the history of graphic art in the 19th century,” Swann Galleries President Nicholas Lowry said.
Swann Galleries, an auction house in New York City which specializes in rare books, has sold vintage Dartmouth Winter Carnival posters for the past 11 years and usually offers the collector’s items in the initial range of $400 to $600, Lowry said.
“It’s a great little collecting niche, why they sell for so much money and why we keep offering them,” he said.
In 2010, Dartmouth College Press published a collection of Winter Carnival posters in a coffee table book titled “Winter Carnival: A Century of Dartmouth Posters.” The College partnered with University Press of New England to produce the book, which contains high-resolution photographs of every Winter Carnival poster.
Swann Galleries held its annual auction on Feb. 2 and offered 19 Winter Carnival posters out of a total of 423 vintage posters owned by Swann Galleries.
A representative from Swann could not be reached to comment on the auction results by press time.
The posters in the Swann collection range in date from 1935 to 1962 and are “incredibly popular” with Dartmouth alumni, Lowry said.
Lowry said he hopes this year’s auction will be as successful as previous years, when several pieces topped $6,000.
The 1936 Winter Carnival poster, designed by painter Dwight Clark Shepler, sold for $7,200 — almost double the asking price — during last year’s auction.
“Someone must be really passionate about Dartmouth or be a big skiing aficionado to pay that type of money for these posters,” Lowry said.
This year, Swann Galleries auctioned a poster from the 1962 Winter Carnival that Lowry expected would bring in a lot of money because this is the first year it has been offered for sale, he said. Lowry could not be reached by press time to comment on the proceeds of this year’s sale.
Lowry said his favorite poster is from the 1950s and has an advertisement for the winter clothing company Jansen’s.
The poster has a woman taking a picture of a ski jumper going over her head and promotes the Carnival as well as the clothing company. Lowry likes this poster because it is rare and was created by a famous European artist, he said.
To correspond with the 2012 theme, “Carnival in Candyland — The Sweetest Carnival Ever,” the 2012 poster, which depicts Baker Tower and a cartoon character from the game Candyland approaching the tower through the forests of the game, was created by Jennifer Freise ’12, who was also the artist of the 2009 Carnival poster.
Freise took inspiration from the “Candyland” theme and said she enjoyed playing with colors and backgrounds.
“I do have to say this is a really neat theme to do art with — you can be whimsical with it,” she said.