Peter Strausfeld played an important part in the post-war British cinema culture as he was probably not only the last but also the most prolific ‘traditional’ cinema poster designer. For 33 years, from 1947 to 1980, his posters for the Academy Cinema in London could be seen in over 300 of the capital’s underground stations, advertising the very best in world cinema. Cinema posters, both then and now, relied on photographs from the film and typography. Peter’s approach was very different. For each one of his posters, he prepared a linocut of a striking image related to each film and set it on a bold single colour background. His posters reflected his interest in making art popular and accessible, especially as each underground station became his gallery.
Peter was born in Cologne in 1910 and his engagement with expressionism, in the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s, defined his art. His life-long love of the woodcut and the linocut began here and his cinema posters are a natural reflection of this interest.
As a result of his political and cultural opposition to the Nazis, Peter came to Brighton at the start of the Second World War. During internment in 1940-41 on the Isle of Man at the Onchan Internment Camp, he met the Austrian film producer George Hoellering. In 1947 Hoellering established the Academy Cinema in London and Peter became its poster designer. He held this job until his death in 1980. The Academy Cinema became the most important independent cinema in this country for the premiere exhibition of what are now recognised as the classic works of post-war world cinema. It closed in the early 1980s.
In 1950-1, Peter worked with Hoellering on the film version of “Murder in the Cathedral” and, as a result, Peter won the prize for best art direction at the Venice Film Festival in 1951. He also worked as an illustrator for the Folio Society. Peter taught at Brighton College of Art and later Brighton Polytechnic in the Department of Graphics from 1959 to 1980.
An exhibition of Peter’s posters toured Britain in 1996 to mark the centenary of Cinema. It was curated by Frank Gray of Screen Archive South East at the University of Brighton.
By Frank Gray