white above - green below
From 8 April to 31 October 2023, Wengen will be hosting a special exhibition of historical Swiss tourism advertising posters. 40 historic advertising posters will be on display in various shop windows and outside. There is also a lot of interesting information about the historical background. The exhibition can be visited every day and at any time. A detailed brochure about the exhibition is available free of charge at the Tourist Center Wengen.
In the development of Switzerland’s image as a tourist destination, the posters of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau would become icons representing not only the Lauterbrunnen valley, Wengen and Mürren, but also Switzerland at large.
Tourism posters would serve to reinforce increasingly sophisticated marketing strategies, e.g., the 19th centuries local railways’ ever expanding accessibility to glaciers and snowy peaks, or winter and summer images showing mountain activities, relaxation and sports; while during and between the wars, posters would send messages to the population to support mountain villages in times of economical need.
This exhibition shows the changes of messages and styles in poster design that would make Switzerland a leader in this field.
Unesco cultural heritage: In October 2017, Swiss graphic design and typography – including poster design – were added to the UNESCO National Proposal List of Switzerland’s Intangible Cultural Heritage and recognized by the Federal Office of Culture as one of Switzerland’s «living traditions».
The 5 themes
A total of five themes will be covered in the historical poster exhibition. You can find out more about them below. You will also find details about each poster on the links.
Theme 1: white above - green below
Since the 1800s, adventurous travelers have made the journey through the verdant alpine slopes and forested hills of the Lauterbrunnen valley to the higher villages of Mürren and Wengen and on to the glorious natural wonders of the glaciers and peaks. Mürren’s and Wengen’s earliest tourism posters – which followed the French trends of the time – enticed the visitor to the area by use of illustrated montages of pristine landscape panoramas and villages showing «typical and interesting» cultural motifs. Mountains, local costumes, agriculture and architecture were represented by naturalistically detailed images using vivid colouring. The following generation of Swiss designers would bring their own innovative styles to tourism posters.
Theme 2: Traveling in comfort
While early posters focused on ease of travel through charming villages, later posters would highlight the delights and activities offered by individual destinations. Gone were the multi-image montages of villages, replaced by human ﬁgures as heroic protagonists. In many posters, travelers are seemingly alone in treacherous environs, implying high altitude adventure is now attainable by all. A new innovative Swiss poster style would receive international recognition. Ferdinand Hodler (1853–1918) would use a modernist inﬂuenced palette, reduced images, and a calligraphic handling of outlines which, in turn, inﬂuenced many contemporary artists. In the 1930s, surrealistic photomontages and collages, would create a modernist image of Switzerland.
Theme 3: The playground of Europe
While Leslie Stephen’s book: «The Playground of Europe» (1871), promoted the Swiss Alps as a sports «playground» to international tourists, the ﬁn-de-siècle, «Grand Hotels» focused on providing luxurious comfort and entertainment for their guests. In the 1930s public swimming pools were built in an attempt to make the warmer months more attractive and to redirect the vacationers’ focus away from seaside resorts. Whereas, the innovations of designers such as Emil Cardinaux, Ernst Otto and Klara Borter would show the inﬂuence of Hodler with cheerful and colorful summer scenes, the avant-gardist Herbert Matter would proﬁle his individualistic modernist style by producing complex photomontages.
Theme 4: Promoting the Alps
With the economic challenges during and between the World Wars, the Swiss National Tourist Ofﬁce would launch campaigns designed to motivate ﬁnancially capable civilians, to engage in healthy outdoor activities. Implying that by doing so, the population would be: Bracing itself for deprivation, preparing to defend the homeland, as well as, making use of the underutilised tourism infrastructures. War time slogans were colourful and to the point: In 1940: «Join us for a winter holiday», «Healthy youth, strong people through winter sports» and in 1941: «Inner strength through winter vacations». Trained designers from the long established Swiss applied arts schools would proﬁle Switzerland as an international leader in poster design.
Thema 5: Affordable Switzerland
Initially, only a minority of Swiss participated in mountain sports and vacations as the concept of «holidays» presupposes worker’s free time and ﬁnancial means. To make vacations in the mountain resorts affordable for all, campaigns were launched by private and public enterprises emphasising affordability. In 1934, the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) produced posters with offers of: «Special reduction on Swiss tickets: Swiss Ski Schools everywhere.» In 1938, Hotelplan, would offer affordable «all-inclusive» vacation packages. Reiterating his 1940s «mountain offensive», Swiss Transport Minister Enrico Celio, called on the nation to: «Take a vacation! Create work! With vacation vouchers», refocusing the marketing message on affordable holidays.