Poster: Big Nudes, 1967. Designed by Milton Glaser. Gift of Sara and Marc Benda. 2009-20-3

Pushing Beyond the Frame

This poster, entitled Big Nudes, was originally displayed in 1967 at the School of Visual Arts Gallery in Gramercy to announce an exhibition of large nude paintings. This poster is the work of American graphic designer and illustrator Milton Glaser. Glaser has designed more than 400 posters, record-covers, illustrations, magazine covers and advertisements throughout his prolific and diverse career. Despite the popularity of his 1966 design for Bob Dylan’s “Greatest Hits” album, Glaser’s work encompasses more than just the widely known representations of Pop Art and Psychedelic work. Glaser moved away from away from these bold expressive styles, and instead incorporated greater naturalism along with softer, more subtle colors into his work, as demonstrated by the Big Nudes poster.

This poster depicts a nude woman’s lower body shown in profile including her lower back, buttocks, and legs. The nude is so large that the entirety of the figure cannot be contained to the space of this poster. Instead of restricting the figure to the boundaries of the paper, the oversized figure extends out of the realm of the drawing and into the space beyond it.  Glaser is playing with the conventions of the traditional nude by including only a view of the legs rather than a more typical and sexually charged depiction of the torso. Rather than show the body at rest, allowing the viewer total visual access to its form, the woman seems to be in the midst of crawling out of the frame entirely. Glaser also seems to be commenting on the distinction between drawing/illustration and design by distorting the figure around the inner rectangular frame. By warping it across three straight lines, the body is taken out of the figural realm and into the realm of design. Glaser is known for engaging with traditional, even obsolete styles of design and coupling them with innovative concepts from the present. He wanted viewers to reconsider these forms through new perspectives in order to take design in a direction that contradicted the stoicism and seriousness of the pervading International Style.  

Kristina Parsons is a Masters student in the History of Decorative Arts and Design program at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum/ Parsons New School for Design. After graduating from Columbia University in 2013 with a background in Art History, she is pursuing her interests in costume history and contemporary design while assisting the Drawing, Prints and Graphic Design curatorial department as an MA Fellow.

Museum Number: 
2009-20-3