1960’s Illustration: Freedom, Peace and Flower Power

The 1960’s were an exciting, revolutionary, turbulent time of great social change. The young and enthusiastic everywhere were questioning and experimenting everything; authorities, corporations, drugs. People were high, and so were the posters.



In America, hippies dreamed of a world full of love peace, and sharing. The Beatles were heard everywhere. Dylan began. Students were the driving force, effecting politics through peaceful demonstrations and colorful decorations.


The illustration scene was highlighted by much improved color printing. Drawing was freed from the constraints of realistic representation, and fantastic imagery flourished. Photography enriched texts, Illustrations combining graphic art and collage became a standard.


The counter culture of the 1960’s produced various independently published and distributed underground papers.


But the revolution that did happen in the 60’s wasn’t as a result of protests or manifests, but due to a technological development. The invention of the birth control pill led to a feminist assault on the old order. The Pill was first available only for married ladies who had enough children, but very quickly spread and became popular also amongst single women –who just wanted it have fun, without worrying about traditional pregnancy burden that was until the sixties forever placed on their backs.


Finally, they got a chance to fearlessly enjoy sexual experiences. The 1960s heralded a new culture of “free love” with millions of young people embracing the hippie ethos and preaching the power of love and the beauty of sex as a natural part of ordinary life.


Advertisement became more sophisticated, sometimes even taking an artistic approach. Ads in the late sixties were brightly colored, wavy and mystical, as seen earlier on the hippies’ painted Volkswagen. Posters portrayed a flowery gentle counterculture.


60’s illustrated books for children were at times as crazy as the decade itself. New York born Maurice Sendak published “Where the Wild Things Are” (1963), a story made of ten sentences only, displaying a surreal and menacing world of make-believe creatures.


The 1960’s offered a new kind of picture book, in which the illustrations dominate the text. Brian Wildsmith – a legendary author-illustrator from Yorkshire, England – made expressive use of intense, shiny colors for many works.


American Eric Carle introduced a new style of illustrations. His 1967 classic “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” included bright, bold collages – made from painted tissue – and has since been a preschool favorite.


The world seemed to have shrunk in the 1960s. For the first time, transcontinental and even intercontinental travel became easy and efficient. Advances in transportation and in communication, the two pillars of commerce, started turning the world into a global village.


By the ended of the eventful decade much of the optimism had gone out, especially in the US. The endless Vietnam War – along with a growing Cold War and a volatile economy plagued by inflation and tax increases – changed the atmosphere. A new and more rational age was coming to stage.



Image Credits:

Martina Skender is a freelance graphic designer from Croatia currently living and learning about Israel. She worked for theater, print and web. She likes to observe, draw and post her drawings on her draw everything blog. /// portfolio


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