Happy Consumption. Publicity and Society in the 20th Century

Happy Consumption. Publicity and Society in the 20th Century


The exhibition Happy Consumption. Publicity and Society in the 20th Century presents the world's largest collection of original hand-painted designs for advertising posters created during the last century and assembled by the collector José Berardo. In the words of the curator of this exhibition, Rui Afonso Santos, “from fashion to the automobile, aviation to food, tourism to music, interior decoration to cinema, not to mention the painful period of the two world wars, the whole of the 20th century unfolds before our eyes.”
The promise of happiness that consumption promoted in Western society finds its ultimate expression in these original designs, of which Pop Art, so well represented in the museum's collection, is its logical consequence in terms of artistic production.

Pedro Lapa
Artistic director


The internationally-unique Berardo Collection of Advertising Art is of unparalleled interest, bringing together exclusively hand-painted advertising originals miraculously saved from the ravages of time and their inevitable and usual destruction.
These original posters were intended for large-scale mechanical reproduction, generally using lithographic and rotographic processes, and constitute the back catalogue of the renowned James Haworth & Company, one of the main advertising agencies in the United Kingdom from around 1900, when it was founded, until roughly 1980. The extent of the company's work, spanning thousands of projects of vast range, reflecting and driving the expansion of consumption, not only allows a detailed examination of the phenomenon of publicity and marketing, but also of its incomparable aesthetic interest, an original panorama by which to understand graphic design and the contemporary visual arts themselves.
The first examples, of mimetic fashion figures interspersed with some examples of Art Nouveau, and political commentaries of World War I (when the firm obtained the accounts of companies as renowned as Cadbury, Oxo, J & J Colman and Rowntree), were followed by advertising for the new consumer goods and foods (electrical appliances, cigarettes, wheat flakes, tinned foods) and the impact of fashion, jazz and tourism, frequently delivered with a touch of humour, Art Déco or an increasingly spartan and radical modernism informed in style by the Bauhaus.
The Wall Street Crash and the economic crisis that followed encouraged a revisiting of nineteenth century formality and the seductive imagery of archetypal cinematic beauties, broadened to encompass the comforting image of the ideal mother, alongside a more radical modernism – characteristics evidenced in the examples of support for the Republican faction in the Spanish Civil War and, above all, the iconic propaganda of Word War II.

Rui Afonso Santos

Internal links: 
O Consumo Feliz
Happy Consumption