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According to the French historian Max Gallo, "for over two hundred years, posters have been displayed in public places all over the world. Visually striking, they have been designed to attract the attention of passers-by, making us aware of a political viewpoint, enticing us to attend specific events, or encouraging us to purchase a particular product or service." The modern poster, as we know it, however, dates back to the mid-nineteenth century, when several separate, but related, changes took place. First, the printing industry perfected colour lithography and made mass production of large and inexpensive images possible. Second, government censorship of public spaces in countries such as France was lifted. And finally, advertisers began to market mass-produced consumer goods to a growing populace in urban areas.
"In little more than a hundred years", writes poster expert John Barnicoat, "it has come to be recognized as a vital art form, attracting artists at every level, from painters such as Toulouse-Lautrec and Mucha to theatrical and commercial designers." They have ranged in styles from Art Nouveau, Symbolism, Cubism, and Art Deco to the more formal Bauhaus and the often incoherent hippie posters of the 1960s.