When it comes to concerts, none are as iconic as Woodstock. It was the largest festival of one of rock and roll’s most important decades, the 1960s. The poster chosen to promote this once-in-a-lifetime event assimilated perfectly with the event. It conveyed the message in a simple but effective manner. And it’s now arguably one of the most recognizable posters in Rock and Roll history. Let’s revisit the famous design below!
The historic event featured some of Rock’s biggest names, iconic performances, and staggering crowds. It became a symbol of freedom for the entire generation.
History in the making.
The poster that became synonymous with the Woodstock festival in1969 was designed by a graphic designer working in New York named Arnold Skolnick. But Skolnick’s design was not the first poster created for the event. The original poster created for the festival was designed by the Fillmore East in-house head poster designer David Byrd.
The original design was titled “Age of Aquarius.” The poster featured the west coast style psychedelia aesthetic blended with Ingres’s classical painting The Source. The complex design was reminiscent of many posters of the time and featured flowing details like cupids, flowers, and hearts in jewel-tone colors. It also noticeably omitted the 33 performing artists. This poster has since become highly collectible because of its rarity.
A historic revision.
The Woodstock festival event organizers eventually scrapped Byrd’s design and approached New York artist Arnold Skolnick. They asked Skolnick to design a new poster and gave him a tight deadline of only 3 days. Skolnick’s design featured only the essential elements used to describe the event. A hand holding the neck of a guitar, a bird perched on the guitar, and the words “3 Days of Peace & Music.” The simplicity of the new design stood in stark contrast to the complex, psychedelic poster Byrd had originally designed. It also listed the performers scheduled to play, which the events promoters appreciated.
Beauty in simplicity.
The beauty of the design comes from it’s simplicity. The design was created by using paper cut outs, a technique Skolnick attributes to A Matisse show at the Museum of Modern Art he attended. Skolnick also revealed the bird perched on the guitar was not in fact a dove. “I used a catbird instead of a dove, because a catbird is fat, and a dove is like a pigeon. It has no shape whatsoever,” Skolnick said. “When you say the word peace, you think of a dove. It’s just a symbol.”
The 5-color offset printed poster originally measured 24.5” x 18” and was printed on white stock paper. You could buy a poster from a truck by the stage. But sales halted when the rain began to fall on the second day of the festival. One of the reasons the originals are still around today. Original copies of the iconic poster sell regularly at auction upwards of $3,000.00. A signed Skolnick even sold for $10,00.00!
This piece has become synonymous with one of the biggest cultural events in American musical history and subsequently become highly collectable. Just imagine, $18 bought you a ticket to 3 days of peace and music in 1969. A fair price to pay in order to be a part of history.
For more information on concert poster collecting check out our guide!