Smith Poster Archive

The Smith Poster Archive housed in Special Collections at Syracuse University contains some 3500 design specimens of popular chromolithographs (a.k.a. “oleographs”, “calendar art”, “popular bazaar prints” or “god posters”) widely disseminated in 20th century Indian homes, shrines, schools, public halls, and workplaces. While such pictures include topics ranging from animals to sports figures to images related to India’s Parsi, Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Sikh and Christian populations, the Smith Poster Archives includes only prints depicting Hindu gods, goddesses, saints and sacred sites and produced from the early 1950s through the early 1980s, with a small sampling of prints from earlier decades, including the 1890s

Click on any of the thumbnails below to see the poster and its description


Hanuman opening his check to reveal Ram and Sita
Krishna as a child
Santoshi Ma
Damayanti and the Swan
Beedi Advertisement with Mohini


The only other comparable collections known today are found at the Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, and the Museum fur Volkerkunde, Hamburg, Germany. The Smith Poster Archive provided most of the prints for the exhibition, “Changing Myths and Images: Twentieth-Century Popular Art in India,” at Indiana University in the fall of 1997.

The collection contains (1) a core collection of some 3500 design specimens; (2) a 3" x 5” card inventory file; (3) a repository of 2" x 2” color slides reproducing a majority of the specimens in the Archive, each slide coordinated with the inventory file entries and the original broadside of each design; and (4) a very modest number of books, Xeroxed articles, and other media relevant to “god posters” research.

The work of a prolific generation of poster artists is found here, including that of Kartick Das (b. 1929), S. Murugakani (b. 1939), S. M. Pandit (b. 1916), Ramchandra, M.U. Ramalingkam (b. 1933), Yogendra Rastogi (b. 1933), Indra Sarma (b. 1923), K. P. Sivan (b. 1928) and T. S. Subbiah (b. 1920), among others.

The collection contains images from publishers and distributors in Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi, Madras and Sivakasi, as well as some smaller regional presses. The collection also contains packets representing the entire inventories of 14” x 10” prints in stock on particular dates in May 1983 at two of Bombay’s most influential wholesale distributors, S. S. Brijbasi & Sons and Sharma Picture Publication.