Rene Wanner's Poster Page


front cover Weltformat
Basler Zeitgeschichte im Plakat; C. Stirnimann, R. Thalmann; Christoph Merian Verlag, CH-4002 Basel (CH), fax +41-61-226 33 45,, Basel (Jan 2001); 240 pages, about 200 color illustrations, 24 x 31 cm; hardcover; ISBN 3-85616-141-4; CHF 78.00 (about US$ 48); in german

The book accompanies an exhibition from Jan 20 - Apr 16, 2001, at the Historisches Museum Basel.

Cover from a poster by Hermann Eidenbenz for the Communist Party, advocating the right for women to vote

The authors have chosen to write a 20th century history of the swiss city of Basel and to illustrate it with political posters. The text section in the first part, by C. Stirnimann, treats the First and Second World War, social problems, the boom years economy and looks into various problems that face the prosperous city towards the turn of the century. R. Thalmann takes a more thematic approach, in the second part of the book, and uses posters from Basel to document changes in the role of women, politics and culture.

For my non-swiss readers I should point out that in Switzerland many issues are decided by popular, and not by parliamentary vote, ranging from far-reaching questions like whether to join the European Union, to the trivial like where to build a playground.

Posters were, and still are, an important factor in the decision process, and are sometimes as hotly discussed in the press (or nowadays on the web ) as the issues themselves. Newspaper articles are therefore a rich source of information on political posters, and a large part of the commentary in the poster section of the book uses this material to explain what the posters refer to.

Towards the end of the book, this concept is abandoned however, and toothpaste, cough drops, and hockey games are elevated to the status of historically significant items, deemed worthy to illustrate local history. Anyway, it gives the authors an excuse to show Niklaus Stoecklin's world renowned Sachplakat Binaca and the equally brilliant Gaba poster. And even a rare Leupin.

This is a very nice book, well made, well printed on good paper, solidly bound, clearly layed out and easy to read, and the publisher is to be congratulated to give it such a pleasant look and feel. It is thoroughly researched, politically well balanced and would make a nice gift to any Basel fan.

In view of the large amount of detailed information, I miss a register to find out, for example, whether the environmental catastrophy of 1986, or the closing of the Gewerbemuseum in 1996, or the mergers and acquisitions of the big chemical companies that dominate the city have left any traces in the form of posters?

1920, A.H. Pellegrini
"Your Sister, give her rights, not only duties", poster for voting rights for women

One male chauvinist who could not appreciate the beauty of this design commented in a letter to the editor of the local daily " .. if that ghostly sister is supposed to be the midwife of a new political order then I am not afraid of the outcome of the vote" and "stop insulting the nursing profession". The vote went his way, in 1920.
1959, Werner Naenny
Poster against the vote for women, published by the Basel Women's Commitee Against the Vote

Irmgard Rimondini, an 85 year old firebrand and once a leading figure in the fight for the vote, told me that she found the selection of the posters in the exhibition a bit too tame, and prefered the really mean and derisive pictures, even if they were from the other camp. "Then, at least we have something to laugh about." She won, in 1959.
1937, Ferdinand Schott
Where should we build the playground?

The Liberal Party suggested in this poster that costs could be halfed by moving the site by 250 m, to which the Communists replied that "..the capitalist reactionaries have to be dealt a severe blow on voting day .."
1927, Niklaus Stoecklin

The poster, one of the highlights of the book, and of Stoecklin's oeuvre, refers to the little black Gaba cough drops that everybody knew by their peculiar shape. The poster just had to remind you to take them.
1954, Herbert Leupin

A soccer game at a newly opened stadium in 1954. The home team played with Stuber, Bocquet, Feselet, Kernen, Eggimann, Antenen, Casali, Meier, Vonlanthen, Ballamann and Fatton and lost 3:5 to the german visitors. Please consult the book for the names and origins of the german players, if the need should arise.


Weltformat not only specifies a paper format ( 90 x 128 cm, used exclusively in Switzerland ) but also means world class. However, the emphasis of the book is clearly on history, rather than on top class posters, and so the title may be a bit misleading in its ambiguity. Many classics that you may expect in the first and only book on Basel posters are simply missing.

Here are some links if you would like to see the posters that put Basel and the famous Basel School on the world map :

Burkhard Mangold at the Poster Gallery in Switzerland
Niklaus Stoecklin, Peter Birkhaeuser, Herbert Leupin at the International Poster Gallery in Boston
Peter Birkhaeuser, the "red pencil" at the International Poster Gallery in Boston
Emil Ruder in a book published in Japan
Armin Hofmann in a web exhibition on Rene Wanner's Poster Page
Herbert Leupin in an exhibition at the GGG-Gallery in Tokyo
Georg Staehelin, winner of the gold medal at the International Poster Biennale in Warsaw 1998
Jean-Benoit Levy, one of the few remaining young poster designers in Basel

or you could go to Berlin in November for an exhibition with the catchy title "Ein Jahrhundert im Weltformat - Schweizer Plakate von 1900 bis zur Gegenwart".

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