A quick glance at the Walter Reuben Collection of early film lobby cards reminds you of the time-consuming process designers and artists used to go through in order to create their work. The rich collage of beautifully hand-rendered drawings and paintings — which lend a real quirkiness to the imagery — combined with amusing taglines and photographs are the awesome fruits of their labors, however. The first lobby cards — basically a pictorial synopsis of the movie — were black and white film stills. Eventually cards were created with a brown and white rotogravure process (an intaglio printing method). Artists would then hand-paint the cards to bring them to life. By the 1920s, a photogelatin/collotype process (an lithographic printing method) was favored.
Walter Reuben’s collection embodies mainly silent era movies and early talkie films. He explains on his website, “Each studio had a distinctive house style, and, even within a studio, the style could vary from one year to another.” Reuben also likens them to Persian miniatures. Once you take a look at several lobby cards from his unique collection past the break, we think you’ll probably agree with him.