Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a Stephen Sondheim musical which opened on Broadway in 1979. This poster, designed by Chicago artist Ed Paschke, advertises the performance of this musical by The Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2002.
Paschke filled this poster with a large head, presumably that of the title character Sweeney Todd who carries top billing as the demon barber. The startling close-up of this head, tattooed from top to bottom and glowing yellow, makes this poster quite fascinating. One can’t just glance at it; a glance always turns into a prolonged stare. Sweeney Todd’s hollow eyes alone are mesmerizing and inspire curiosity about the story. Was he as demonic as this poster makes him out to be? One will have to go to the show to find out.
Ed Paschke (1939-2004), a well-known Chicago painter, was associated with the pop art movement and with the Chicago Imagists, a group of Chicago artists whose styles borrowed from popular culture, outsider art and Surrealism.
Influenced also by the photo-based portraiture of Andy Warhol, Paschke created portraits modeled from images sourced from popular media and American subcultures. His version of pop art was imbued with a darker vision than that of other artists in the pop art movement, including Warhol.
Those familiar with Paschke's distinctive style will recognize his work.