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Postwar: A new beginning

Poster
1951 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

This magnificent poster was designed by the Finnish artist llmari Sysimetsä (1912-1955) for the XVth Olympic Games held in Helsinki in 1952. Printed by F. Tilgmann in seven colours by offset lithography, with screen-printed title lettering, it is a variant of Sysimetsä's original poster for the Helsinki Games of 1940, which were cancelled as a result of the Second World War. The design is based on a bronze statue of the famous Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi ('The Flying Finn') by the sculptor Waino Aaltonen. Nurmi (1897-1973) was one of the greatest runners of all time, and his athletic feats in the 1920s helped put Finland on the world map after its independence from Russia in 1917. Significantly, Nurmi's image is superimposed over a section of globe showing Finland outlined within Europe. It was after Nurmi had won five gold medals at the Paris Olympics in 1924 that the Finnish Government commissioned the statue by Aaltonen; a copy, cast in 1952, stands at the entrance to the Helsinki Olympic Stadium. Driven by the love of running and with an iron will to succeed, Nurmi dominated middle and long distance running, winning nine gold and three silver Olympic medals in total.

Just as the choice of Helsinki to host the 1952 Summer Games was the long-awaited fulfilment of plans first made for 1940, so too was the choice of official 1952 poster the ultimate accolade for Sysimetsä's design. A new competition in 1950 elicited 277 designs, but none could compete with the 'Paavo Nurmi' image, which needed only minor modifications to bring it up to date. Printed in two sizes and 20 different languages, the first copies (115,000 copies were printed in all) appeared in March 1951, although the poster was not displayed widely until the spring of 1952, shortly before the Games. To the joy of the Finnish crowds, the 55-year old Paavo Nurmi brought the poster to life, as it were, by appearing as the final torchbearer in the relay to light the Olympic flame.

Object details

Category
Object type
TitlePostwar: A new beginning (popular title)
Materials and techniques
Ink printed on paper
Brief description
Olympic poster, Helsinki 1952
Physical description
Colour lithograph poster with image of a runner for the XVth Olympic Games, Helsinki Finland, 19th July to 3 Aug 1952.
Dimensions
  • Height: 1000mm
  • Width: 620mm
Credit line
Given by Tony Scanlon
Summary
This magnificent poster was designed by the Finnish artist llmari Sysimetsä (1912-1955) for the XVth Olympic Games held in Helsinki in 1952. Printed by F. Tilgmann in seven colours by offset lithography, with screen-printed title lettering, it is a variant of Sysimetsä's original poster for the Helsinki Games of 1940, which were cancelled as a result of the Second World War. The design is based on a bronze statue of the famous Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi ('The Flying Finn') by the sculptor Waino Aaltonen. Nurmi (1897-1973) was one of the greatest runners of all time, and his athletic feats in the 1920s helped put Finland on the world map after its independence from Russia in 1917. Significantly, Nurmi's image is superimposed over a section of globe showing Finland outlined within Europe. It was after Nurmi had won five gold medals at the Paris Olympics in 1924 that the Finnish Government commissioned the statue by Aaltonen; a copy, cast in 1952, stands at the entrance to the Helsinki Olympic Stadium. Driven by the love of running and with an iron will to succeed, Nurmi dominated middle and long distance running, winning nine gold and three silver Olympic medals in total.

Just as the choice of Helsinki to host the 1952 Summer Games was the long-awaited fulfilment of plans first made for 1940, so too was the choice of official 1952 poster the ultimate accolade for Sysimetsä's design. A new competition in 1950 elicited 277 designs, but none could compete with the 'Paavo Nurmi' image, which needed only minor modifications to bring it up to date. Printed in two sizes and 20 different languages, the first copies (115,000 copies were printed in all) appeared in March 1951, although the poster was not displayed widely until the spring of 1952, shortly before the Games. To the joy of the Finnish crowds, the 55-year old Paavo Nurmi brought the poster to life, as it were, by appearing as the final torchbearer in the relay to light the Olympic flame.
Collection
Accession number
E.423-2007

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Record createdApril 21, 2009
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