Welcome to Great Graphics.
greatvintagegraphics.com is the bricks and mortar website for our retail store in Charlottesville, Virginia. If you were linked to this site from our online vintage graphics gallery, greatvintagegraphics.net, please consider staying a while to learn about how and why we came to specialize in custom framing and dealing vintage art. After 35 years, our commitment to these pursuits is still going strong.
We began in the custom picture framing business in Georgetown, Washington, DC in 1979. One of our earliest and best customers was Clyde's Restaurant. They used vintage posters and advertising art as decor to create a unique historical ambience in their restaurants. In the process of framing their collection, we became increasingly interested and well versed in the art done for commercial purposes prior to 1940. We then, in 1990, moved onto M Street in Georgetown, near Four Seasons Hotel, and offered the vintage graphics in our new gallery, Grafix. We were fortunate to provide framing and art to the people of Washington, DC, surrounding areas, and visitors from around the world for 27 years. Due to Georgetown's small, unique business character being replaced over the years by national and international chain stores, we left at the end of 2006. We continue to offer the art and framing that we love on the Historic Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, Virginia near the University of Virginia. We are in gallery space at 503 East Main Street and also have 5000 sq ft of old prints and picture framing equipment and materials in the lower level below Men' & Boy's Shop at 410 E Main Street.
Magazine Cover Art
Beautiful poster-style works of art adorned the covers of magazines the world over from about 1880 to the 1940's. The subject matter of the image was not so important as the visual impact on the viewer and the art did not have to relate to anything covered inside the publication. As with any successful advertisement it just needed to capture the viewer's attention. Most of the great commercial artists of the period as well as many fine artists contributed to the art form.
We like to enlarge the cover and ad art a little (17x22) creating mini-posters but they do well quality-wise up to 24" x 36". The clean poster-style magazine cover look became more compromised in the 40's as magazines had to compete with radio and television for ad revenue and they started adding text boxes to the covers describing the contents and stories inside. New Yorker is the only current publication continuing the tradition.
Antique Maps & Prints
Maps date back to the 15th Century when a city was drawn from a nearby hill and became something of an art form as they were embellished with cartouches and color. Up until about 1900 most maps were steel or copper plate engravings executed on fine paper which attributed to their general sturdiness. Their appeal seems universal.
Also produced with the same techniques and loving care through this period were prints of natural history, architecture, city views, historical scenes and book story illustrations. Many early newspapers used woodcuts to graphically depict the news of the day.
Vintage Poster Art
The poster has been popular for as long as they have been produced in quantity and particularly since they started to appear in color. Jules Cheret is considered the father of the color lithograph and his work appeared as early as 1880. We enjoyed the art quality of the stone lithograph into the 1940's when the photo offset print became the norm because of its low cost. Where smaller runs of a poster were needed one often saw use of silkscreen or metal plate lithography. The higher quality is readily distinguishable.
It is not hard to understand the appeal of the poster. The design is concise, bold, uncluttered and usually with vibrant striking colors. The text is eye catching in style and layout. If the design is successful the viewer never tires of seeing it and the product has a better chance of finding a customer. The best artists could make a can of Brasso look like fun.