Despite an era marked by persistent war and disorder, the Republican period in Chinese history witnessed a remarkable boom spanning industry, commerce, and culture. From the hustle and bustle of cosmopolitan Shanghai to the rapid industrialization of Manchuria under Japanese occupation, 1930’s China was a shining contrast to the rest of the world going through the Great Depression.
The success of this type of advertising poster/calendar meant that local artists and designers found a lucrative outlet with the growing demand for watercolour posters. Some were employed directly by companies such as the British American Tobacco Co. and China Nanyang Brother Tobacco Co.; others set up their own studios. This fostered a new form of expression that was a synthesis of Western ideas and Chinese illustration techniques in which Chinese watercolour technique was effectively employed to add emphasis and a refined elegance to posters depicting familiar Chinese scenes and settings, historical figures, gods and characters of opera and legend.
Overseas companies such as the British American Tobacco Co. were the first to introduce this type of product promotion to China, which then prompted similar tactics from local Chinese companies. Through the portrayal of women and from the obvious Western influences, these advertising posters reflected this uncertain period of openness and prosperity on the eve of an impending war.