Edward Penfield (June 2, 1866 – 1925) was a leading American illustrator in the era known as the “Golden Age of American Illustration” and is a major figure in the evolution of graphic design.
He is considered the father of the American Poster. His work has been included in almost every major book on American Illustration or the history of the poster.
Penfield used simple shapes and a limited color palette appropriate to the primitive reproduction methods of the era.
In the 1890’s Penfield traveled to Europe where he was exposed to Impressionism, European poster artists and Ukiyo-e.
Their influences was evidenced in Penfield’s simplified forms, flat outlined shapes and graphic compositions. He believed in a direct approach,
“A poster should tell as story once—a design that needs study is not a poster.”
This shy, retiring New Yorker has been called the “originator of the poster in America.” His posters have really stood the test of time with poster enthusiasts that have been avidly collecting his contributions to this craft for over one hundred years.
From 1891–1901 Penfield worked as art director of Harper and Brothers Periodicals, directing illustrators and layout design. He is best known for his monthly posters advertising Harper’s Magazine. Colliers, Saturday Evening Post, Life and Ladies Home Journal all featured his work on their covers.
More than a poster artist, Edward Penfield was an illustrator, art editor, graphic designer, writer, painter, educator and mentor — an American Master.