Batiste Madalena (American, b. Italy, 1902–1988) was hired by George Eastman during the late period of silent cinema to design and hand-paint film posters for his theater in Rochester, NY—at the time the third-largest cinema in the U.S. Working alone over a four-year period and against deadlines that required as many as eight new posters a week for each change of bill, Madalena created over 1,400 unique works before the end of his tenure, when the theater changed management. Approximately 250 of these posters survived when the artist himself rescued them from the trash behind the theater. Madalena’s rediscovery in the 1980s brought his brilliantly colored, singular designs, done in tempera paint on illustration board, to the attention of critics and collectors, and soon made him one of the most celebrated advertising artists for moving pictures. This exhibition consists of fifty-three posters drawn from institutional and private collections and from the Museum’s collection.
Organized by Ronald S. Magliozzi, Assistant Curator, and Jenny He, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art.