Sports as a Muse for Poster Art

June 2009 ‐ October 2009

Nostalgic posters were the theme of the Ski Museum’s summer exhibition. Many famous Finnish artists, illustrators and graphic designers have designed sports-themed posters for various occasions. 

The Sports as a Muse for Poster Art exhibition focused on posters designed for sports events. Their aesthetics were greatly influenced by the speed and power of sports. The posters in the exhibition portray both the dignified atmosphere of ski races in the 1920–30s and the cheerful ski festivals in Lahti Ski Games. They convey the international atmosphere of the Ski Games, the joy of skiing and the enjoyment of the spectators. Lasse Pirskanen was a frequent designer of posters for sports events in the 1950s. Naturally, the exhibition also portrayed the posters of the Nordic World Ski Championships arranged in Lahti. 

The designers of posters from the 1920s and 1930s included Alf Danning, Ilmari Sysimetsä, Eric Vasström, Ola Fogelberg, Oscar Furuhjelm, Hans Björklind, Aarno Karimo, Paul Jefimov and Arvo Tigerstedt. Younger generations were represented by names such as Raimo Raimela and Aleksander Lindeberg. Many of them were trailblazers in their field. 

One of the designers portrayed, Arvo ‘Tiger’ Tigerstedt, was also a famous cartoonist and sports journalist. Among others, he designed the poster for the gymnastics festival of Finnish National Sports Federation (SVUL) in 1930. He was a commercial artist by training. He made a great career as the sports cartoonist of the sports journal Suomen Urheilulehti and Finland’s leading newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat. 

Ola ‘Fogeli’ Fogelberg was a comic-strip cartoonist best known for his Pekka Puupää (‘Pete Blockhead’) cartoon character. An advertisement manager in a co-operative association, he designed the poster for the Federation Festival of the Finnish Workers’ Sports Federation in 1927. His career was closely associated with sports, the labour movement and co-operative operations. 

The exhibition also included posters portraying the Winter Olympics. In addition to marketing the games, posters for the Olympic Games always tell a tale of the organising country and city. The ideals and values typical of the era can be seen in them. In addition to winter sports, the exhibition also focused on summer sports, such as the Helsinki Olympic Games and gymnastics festivals. 

Commercial artist Ilmari Sysimetsä originally designed his Olympic poster for the games that were to be held in 1940. The running statue of Paavo Nurmi in front of the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki is the central motif of the poster. 

The exhibition was arranged in collaboration with the Poster Museum, using its collections.