Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Here's a terrific one (above). It has it all: beautiful color and rendering, demons, advice from the Devil, and levitating women. Be sure to click to enlarge. You can hardly see what's going on in this tiny version.

I love this one (above). The color isn't as good, but the idea is wonderful: I'm guessing it's about an infidel magician who has penetrated into the secret enclave of a Moorish death cult. He's exposed when he tries to help a girl who's about to be sacrificed to a man-eating tiger. Only his knowledge of magic can save them now.

I don't like this poster (above). I'm a cartoonist but I take magic seriously, and I don't like to see it treated lightly as it is here.

Beautiful technique (above), but where's he rushing to? It's as if his magical powers were less important than a sale at Macy's.

Here's a good one (above). Thurston is presented as a scholar of the mystical arts. He's surrounded my mischievous demons and imps.

Another nice one (above), though the reproduction could be more colorful. Blackstone is portrayed as a man of such enormous power and mystical knowledge that his very presence rends the curtain that separates us from the demon world, and creatures from that place spill into our world all around him.

I don't know why, but the idea of lots of objects (above) floating in the air around a tied-up person intrigues me.

I like posters and magic tricks that are about cabinets (above). When we enclose a space we seem to steal that space from the nether world, and it becomes full of magical potential.

Nice poster...and big, the way all magic posters should be.

Another terrific Kellar poster (above)! The magician's presence has attracted demons who delight in helping him ensnare a space which is alive with mystical energy.

Awesome! The magician has revealed secrets to the audience (above) which were so fantastic and beyond our understanding, that he's driven his audience mad. Well, they can't say they didn't get their money's worth.

This magician's magnetism (above) sucks demons out of their own world and into ours.

A good poster (above), but it's a bit sparse. A magic poster should resemble the best of the old, crowded circus posters. It should promise more wonders than the mind can comprehend. I do like the lightning coming from his fingertips.

Here's (above) an improvement on the same theme. Demons always make a magic poster better.


I like magic tricks that involve flash explosions. These remind us of Hell, and of the violence-inducing mysteries embedded in the real, everyday world.


Unknown said...

I like paintings in general but these get scary too! Do you do magic tricks at all? Maybe you can do one of those wigs posts with some visual magic? cause It'd be interesting to see in still photos.

Nate said...

The "devil imparting mystical knowledge" theme is a pretty common one I guess! Wonder how that came to be associated with magicians. The old Faust legend? Fascinating.

Craig said...

I LOVE the poster for KELLAR and his PERPLEXING CABINET MYSTERIES! The three little fellows on the bottom right would make GREAT marionettes. . .

Ian Merch! said...

I had no idea a thing like this even existed. I also had no idea that demons had so little to do they helped magicians!

These are awesome!

Brubaker said...

I think you cracked the secret of making ALL posters (not just the magic ones) good by default: Add lots and lots of demons.

Lester Hunt said...

Like Nate, I am stuck by the fact that so many of these golden-age magicians liked to associate themselves with the Devil. I guess that is a sign that by that time most of their intended audience no longer believed in a literal Devil. Just imagine creating an add the might convince people that you are in cahoots with the real Beelzebub! In the Middle Ages you would have been executed just for that!

Ken Mitchroney said...

This kind of thing spilled over into the midway at fairs too.I love the side show banners of the time as well.
Some of Robert Williams paintings remind me a little of this style.Good catch Uncle Eddie.

John A said...

Lester: Unfortunately, we have devolved into a more literal world were people actually believe there are demons following us around. Today no entertainer in their right mind would advertise themselves as being in league with "Satan" for fear that they would be picketed by the Christo-Fundies.

Steven Finch, Attorney At Law said...

Hey Eddie,

What do you think of contemporary magician Ricky Jay's poster for his "Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants" show?


It's obviously inspired by the same era of posters you have here, but it's a little more minimal and less chaotic--but it still works really well, at least I think!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Niki: I can't do a single magic trick...well, I used to impress my kids by opening automatic supermarket doors with a wave on my hands, but my kids were three years old then.

Steven: I hate to say it, but that's a horrible poster! Too minimal and the demons look like they were thrown in as an afterthought. The magician has a photogenic face, but IMHO he's not used to best advantage here.

Craig: They probably would make good marionettes!

Kali Fontecchio said...

These are great!

Jenny Lerew said...

I saw a fantastic multipart series on some cable channel several years ago about the history of stage magic. Because of it--it was riveting--I know the names of most of the magicians on the posters here.
They addressed the whole "in league with the Devil" slant that these fellows used to add some mystery and magic to their personas and acts. I also found myself positively drooling to have been present 120 years ago at one of the fabulous, grand performances of those acts--some of the best and biggest were far more amazing than anything we could see now onstage anywhere. For all of our so-called progress, there were some things they did up much more ingeniously then. It wasn't at all primitive as one might think. In fact the very same principles used over 100 years ago are used today by glitzy Vegas magicians as well as by the genius, Ricky Jay.

An absolutely wonderful film that has a great sense of the role magicians played in that era is "The Illusionist". The featured magician there, Eisenheim, makes do with a rather spare stage setting but his magic is beautifully conveyed (many based on actual tricks, including at least one first performed by the great magician Houdin, whose name Houdini borrowed when he changed it from Erich Weiss).
I hesitate to tell you to see it, Eddie, as you're so utterly contrary to most of my suggestions that I'm afraid you'll either never bother or else watch 5 minutes and say "hmpf, well, I couldn't get through it" but: you ought to see it.
And for god's sake don't sit there simultaneously drawing on your desk while it's on!
; )

(BTW as they were released at he same time, I disliked "The Prestige", also about magicians of almost the same period. Good cast, nicely mounted but a stupid mystery, needlessly violent--although the scenes with David Bowie and the whole Tesla subplot were great.)

Charles H. said...

I especially like the last Kellar poster- He looks so deeply entranced, I can almost imagine him sweating an quivering backstage as prepares for the next show.

And... am I the only one who was reminded of an Indiana Jones movie with the Kar-Mi poster?

_ said...

eddie, 3 things:

great poster art. it's a goddamn shame it doesn't really exist anymore. same goes for movie posters.

this post reminded me how i really dig "the prestige"

and unrelated, the trailer for the new coen brothers movie, which i'm passing round to everyone:


i can't get enough of it. the editing of this thing!!
it's better than most movies made today! hahaha

_ said...

oh yeah, steven attorney at...

ricky jay is awesome! hahaha. i get a kick everytime he pops up in a david mamet movie.

that and his voiceover on magnolia

that magic poster is kinda lame though. is it recent-ish? it does seem to have that minimalist close-up-of-face look that pretty much all posters of anything have these days. although now everything (as in, EVERYTHING) seems airbrushed-photoshopped-etc...

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Jenny, Jack: I have to rush out to work, but I'll answer these interesting comments as soon as I can.

David said...


Nice post. If you can locate a copy I think you'd like the book "100 Years of Magic Posters" by Charles and Regina Reynolds . Great book, unfortunately out-of-print and often goes for very high prices on Ebay , but I've occasionally seen one pop up at a used book store for a reasonable price.

Check out Norm Nielsen's site for many fine reproductions (and originals !) of these Golden Age magic posters:

Magic Posters

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Jenny: I'll try to get hold of a copy of The Illusionist. I liked the Prestige movie, though it was contrived, and full of improbabilities.

What were the old shows you mentioned like? You mean things like disappearing elephants?

I'm surprised that you think I ignore your recommendations. I always take recommendations seriously.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

David: Holy Mackerel! I wish I'd known about this site when I was writing the post! Thanks much for the link!

Jack! Haw! The Coen Bros. film looks great!

Anonymous said...

I always get Ricky Jay and Tony Jay mixed up.

Jenny Lerew said...

Oh no, Eddie--not "ignore"! Not that at all! I do get the impression that all the "new" things I suggest end up falling very short for you. I admit I've been crestfallen as a result on more than one occasion, but-- c'est la guerre. ; )

If you watch the Illusionist there's one very fantastic (I mean in the literal sense) trick that is identical to a famous Houdin illusion. There were so many fabulous stage effects back then! And likely too many fires in theaters as a result.