The Gerard Herbst poster collection in Melbourne (AU)
February 10, 2007, received from Daisy Searls, curator of the exhibition
Image courtesy Klaus Staeck
born Dresden, Germany 1938
Die Gedanken sind frei [Thoughts are free] 1979
84 x 59 cm
The University of Melbourne Art Collection. Gift of Gerard Herbst 1996
Selected works from the Gerard Herbst Poster Collection
Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne, Australia
I always feel the Herbst posters are a like an exotic flower kept in a glasshouse by some eccentric 18th century gentleman who pores over them while the rest of the world goes on without knowing much of these treasures.
Thirty seven of these striking treasures have been selected from this outstanding collection of over 2,000 posters, illustrating the particular and extraordinary skills of some of the leading exponents in visual communication and design.
Chosen from a collection that spans over 40 years, the works have been created predominantly by some of the most influential European designers, with a smaller selection from the UK and Australia. The works are masterpieces in poster design practice . Strong, simple, with a highly crafted immediacy, the works represent the distillation of ideas, skills, and mechanisms that inspire, attract, persuade and compel the viewer to look, understand and be moved.
As curator Daisy Searls noted, 'These are images that you cannot ignore. Although they are silent, they have an instant impact, seeming to circumvent cerebral analysis and instead have a more immediate and instantaneous impact at first glance. Many of these designers have developed ideas in these works that are still mimicked today by those in advertising, design and art. The posters are both rich in aesthetic and rich in ideas.'
In graphic design, poster design is one of the most rigorous disciplines, and as with many other disciplines a good design looks deceptively easy. As a body of poster design, this collection, donated to the University of Melbourne by Gerard Herbst in 1996 and now managed by the Ian potter Museum of Art, is very significant, representing many international schools, designers and periods.
Gerard Herbst was born 1911 in Dresden and educated in Cottbus, Germany. He studied weaving and textile design, and embraced the holistic teaching style espoused by the Bauhaus. Herbst was interned prior to the outbreak of World War 2 and later escaped Germany and emigrated to Australia in 1939. He became head designer for Prestige Fabrics in Melbourne where he worked before and after his military service. In 1951 he began teaching part-time at RMIT and in 1960 joined the staff as principle lecturer for the Department of Industrial Design.
As a passionate advocate of the poster and poster design, and a poster designer himself, Gerard included this practice into the industrial design course, an integral part of his interdisciplinary approach. He used his connections with the artists and publishers in Europe to source posters for the collection and used the posters in his teaching practice and for exhibition. Herbst donated the Collection to the University of Melbourne to promote the importance of the art of the poster and to foster design practice in Australia.
Works will include accident prevention posters produced late in World War II by leading British exponents of poster design Abram Games and Leonard Cusden for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents; Australian workplace safety posters of the 1960s; and a series of posters featuring representations of heads and hands by renowned as well as lesser-known German, Czech and Polish designers. Posters featuring poster design from theatre, cinema and opera will also be included. The selection reveals stylistic and conceptual shifts in poster design over four decades of European and Australian production.
The Ian Potter Museum of Art, the University of Melbourne