From the category archives:

20th-Century

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was the largest and most ambitious agency created by the United States government as part of the New Deal, established under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to help combat the Great Depression, focusing on the “3 Rs” of Relief, Recovery, and Reform: relief for the poor and unemployed, recovery of the economy, and reform of the financial systems already in place to help prevent another depression. In total, over 100 offices were created – some established by Congress, such as the Tennessee Valley Authority, and some through Roosevelt’s presidential executive orders, including the WPA.

The goal of the WPA, headed by Roosevelt’s close friend Harry Hopkins, was to create jobs for millions of Americans who were eligible for employment. The WPA operated in conjunction with state and local governments, which helped cover a percentage of the costs and provided supplies, while the WPA was responsible for the majority of costs and for the workers’ wages.  

Between 1935 and 1943, the WPA employed more than 8.5 million workers to carry out public works projects including the construction of hundreds of thousands of miles of highways and roads, bridges, reservoirs, irrigation systems, parks, playgrounds, and over 125,000 public buildings including hospitals and schools. Notable projects built under the WPA include the Lincoln Tunnel, LaGuardia Airport, and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. A smaller division of the WPA, called Federal Project Number One, employed musicians, artists, writers, actors, and directors for arts, drama, and media projects.The WPA program was ended on June 30, 1943, due to low employment because of the worker shortage caused by World War II.

During the Great Depression, unemployment in the city of Milwaukee was at roughly 40 percent, and in 1933 an astonishing 53 percent of property taxes went unpaid because people couldn’t afford to make their payments. The WPA launched the Milwaukee Handicraft Project in 1935, under the direction of Elsa Ulbrecht, the Fine Arts Director of Milwaukee State Teachers College, with the goal of creating by hand high quality educational materials for schools that taught arts and crafts. The project hired roughly 5,000 workers and taught them to make a variety of wood and cloth items including dolls, toys, furniture, rugs, curtains, book-bindings, quilts, textile prints, and costumes. The women were assigned to specific production units, each led by an experienced artist or designer. The items were then sold at cost to educational and tax-supported institutions, including the Milwaukee Public Schools, libraries, and local hospitals.

The Milwaukee Handicraft Project was one of the most successful and innovative of the WPA’s various programs. The vast majority of workers hired by the WPA for its public relief projects were white men, but the Milwaukee Handicraft Project attempted to balance this disparity. Most of the workers hired for this program were uneducated and unskilled women of all ages and nationalities, many of whom had never held a job. A large number did not even speak English. Only certain jobs were considered appropriate for women at the time, and so Harriet Pettibone Clinton, the District Director of the Women’s Division of the Wisconsin WPA, deliberately chose to create a project in which the vast numbers of unemployed women could freely participate.

The WPA also sent a group of 300 African-American workers to participate in the project, intending them to have a segregated workspace. However, the program directors were opposed to this idea and insisted that the women and minorities work side-by-side. The integrated workforce made the Milwaukee Handicraft Project unique in its progressive and forward-thinking mindset.

One of the production units was the blockprinting unit, which grew out of the bookbinding unit when the lead designers decided to create decorative book covers using linoleum block prints. They created patterns which the workers then transferred to linoleum blocks and cut away to create stamps. These blocks were then inked and stamped onto paper and fabric. They were designed to be labor-intensive, so as to help guarantee the women with many hours of paid work. F.A. Bernett currently has in its inventory a suite of six portfolios displaying samples of the various handmade blockprinted textiles created in the workshops of the Milwaukee Handicraft Project.

Applied Design: Blockprinted Textiles. An Educational Service Prepared by the Milwaukee WPA Handicraft Project. Milwaukee.- Milwaukee WPA Handicraft Project. 6 vols: I. Surface Patterns; II. Surface Patterns; III. Motifs; IV. Border Designs; V. Motifs; VI. Supplement, comprising a suite of portfolios containing 72 total examples of matted blockprinted textiles in a wide variety of patterns and styles, including figures, animals, birds, botanical, and geometric designs, the back of each matte stamped “WPA Handicraft Project #7040, Milwaukee Wisconsin, Sponsored by Milwaukee County and Milwaukee State Teachers College”, the inside front cover of portfolios 1-4 and 6 labeled “This portfolio was made by the Milwaukee Handicraft Project, Sponsored by Milwaukee County and Milwaukee State Teachers College, Wisconsin WPA”, portfolio five stamped “WPA Handicraft Project #8601, Milwaukee Wisconsin, Sponsored by Milwaukee County and Milwaukee State Teachers College”. Portfolios 1-3 folio, 4-6 elephant folio. Green cloth-covered boards portfolios, contents loose as issued. Milwaukee (Milwaukee WPA Handicraft Project) n.d. (circa 1935). Ex-library copy with bookplates, labels to covers, rubber ink stamps to portfolios and mattes, and pencil acquisition notations to mattes. (48655)

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Cuba, OSPAAAL (Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa, and Latin America), 1971 and 1972 

Extensive and Culturally Significant Archive of Approximately 500 Political Posters. An important, unique, and carefully curated collection of political posters, dated from approximately the 1960s to the 2000s, from a wide variety of leftist and militant groups in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America, related to a broad range of domestic and international movements and issues, providing an essential overview of the global political climate at the time with regards to radicalism, solidarity, and liberation. Some with scattered soiling, marginal tears, tack holes, and other minor losses, overall excellent condition. Various sizes. Various cities, 1960s-2000s.

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France, MRI (Mouvement Revolutionaire Internationaliste), 1980s

This collection documents a vital period in the history of both Western Europe and Third World countries in the second half of the 20th century, a time of political upheaval, domestic terrorism, radical left-wing groups, and liberation movements. The posters that make up this collection can be roughly divided into three categories. First, a large number of the posters document the struggle of the militant left at home within Europe, with movements from Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, and Ireland covered including Antifaschistische Aktion, RAF (Red Army Faction), RZ (Revolutionäre Zellen), Secours Rouge, CCC (Cellules Communistes Combattantes), CPN (Communist Party of the Netherlands), Kraakbeweging, RVF (Rood Verzetsfront), AFAPP (Asociación de Familiares y Amigos de Presos Politicos), Moviment de Defensa de la Terra, FRAP (Frente Revolucionario Antifascista y Patriota), Circolo Lenin Catania, Sinn Féin, and the Irish Republican Army. These posters cover a range of issues, including the treatment of political prisoners, hunger strikes, anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism, anti-NATO, urban development, housing shortages, squatters, election reform, the women’s movement, and the labor movement.

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Netherlands, Communistische Partij van Nederland, Circa 1965

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Ireland, Irish Republican Movement, Circa 1980

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Germany, Autonomen Gruppen/Antifaschistische Aktion/RZ (Revolutionäre Zellen), 1984

A second large group demonstrates the solidarity of Western European groups for the assorted liberation movements and uprisings happening across the Third World. These include posters from CISNU (Confederation of Iranian Students National Union), Chili Komitee Nederland, Komitee Jongeren Voor Vietnam, MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola), Inlichtingen Angola-Comité, Palestina Komitee, Solidariteits Komitee Argentinie Nederland, UJPA Belgique (Union des Jeunes Progressistes Arabes), Collectif Pour la Libération de Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, Comité Catalá de Solidaritat Internacionalista, Asociacion de Amistad y Solidaridad con El Pueblo Saharui, Halkin Kurtulusu, MPP (Mouvement Populaire Perou), Association de Solidarité avec Timor Oriental, and MRI (Mouvement Revolutionaire Internationaliste).

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Netherlands, Palestijnse Vereniging, 1976

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Spain, Circa 1980s

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Netherlands, MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola), Circa 1975

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Netherlands, Vietnambeweging Delft, Circa 1973

Lastly, the third group of posters represents the political climate within the Third World countries themselves, including organizations such as the Cuban group OSPAAAL (Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa, and Latin America), FMLN from El Salvador (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front), Partido Comunista del Peru, ASALA (Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia), FATAH (Palestinian National Liberation Movement), PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), PFLP (People’s Liberation Front of Palestine), GUPW (General Union of Palestinian Women), PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party), YJWK (Patriotic Women’s Union of Kurdistan), ERNK (National Liberation Front of Kurdistan), and YAJK (Free Women’s Army of Kurdistan).

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“Either Palestine…Or Hell”, Palestine, FATAH (Palestinian National Liberation Movement), 1983

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El Salvador, FMLN (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front), 1980s or 1990s

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Peru, Partido Comunista del Peru, 1986

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Palestine, P.L.O. (Palestine Liberation Organization), Department of Information and Culture, 1980s

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“It is a riot, a revival of paganism…It is also, in its way, a hymn to beauty, a living explosion of the senses and of the emotions.” – E. Berry Wall, Neither Past Nor Puritan

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In 1892, Henri Guillaume, Professor of Architecture at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, proposed that the students of the school’s four disciplines – architecture, painting, sculpture, and engraving – put on a joint costume ball. He envisioned a lavish room decorated by the students and ornate processions, inspired by a pre-existing culture of balls and costume parties in turn-of-the-century Paris, including the Bal Blanc, la Fête Païenne, the Bal des Incohérents, and the Bal Rodolphe.

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The first ball was organized by a joint committee of art students together with writers and artists living in Montmartre and Montparnasse. It was held at the old Élysée Montmartre, a Parisian concert hall and host to many cabarets and costume balls. Admission to the festivities was by invitation only, and the ball was an immediate success. The following year, it was decided that attendance to the ball would be restricted to students and former students of the École, as well as “artistic personalities” who had contributed to the preparation of the ball. It became an annual affair, running virtually uninterrupted each summer through 1966. (No parties were held during the war years, from 1915 to 1919 and from 1940 to 1945.) The balls were held in several major venues scattered throughout Paris over the years, with most taking place at the Moulin Rouge, the Salle Wagram, and the Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles.

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Although in its early years the ball was simply an elaborate party, beginning in 1900 each ball had a specific historic theme, often derived from an ancient text or inspired by an “exotic” foreign culture, around which various contests were arranged. Once the organizing committee and workshop students came up with the theme, students from the workshops, either individually or in groups, built floats for the entrance procession as well as a loge which surrounded the central dance floor to house tableaux from the chosen theme or time period, which would be acted out as the voting Committee passed by. Prizes were awarded for the best costumes.

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The balls were elaborate and debaucherous, romping affairs. According to the invitations, which read “Le comite sera impitoyable pour tout costume qui ne serait pas de l’epoque,” attendees were required to attend in period costume; yet the costumes were often shed at some point during the festivities. The doors opened at 10 PM, and no further entrances were allowed after midnight. However, the dancing and merrymaking often continued into the wee hours, usually devolving into drunken revelry and nudity. The dancing frequently ended with a shout of “Vive les Quat’z’ Arts!” around seven o’clock in the morning, followed by a procession through the Latin Quarter, a romp around the Louvre, and a march over the Pont du Carrousel to the Théâtre de l’Odéon, where the partygoers would disband.

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In July 1946, an article was published in Life Magazine by an American journalist, Bernard Frizell, who “crashed” that year’s party. He described the event as an orgy, the female attendees initially “dressed in such a way that more was revealed than hidden”, but by midnight, under pounding music and flashing lights, with hours of revelry still to come, “a number of the girls had lost their upper garments.” Around 1 am he describes the grand procession, that year with the theme of Agamemnon’s victory over Troy: “The orchestra, playing the march from Aida, led the parade of the victors around the room. Then the committee encircled the room to judge the best galley…On the mast of one of the galleys appeared a girl, her magnificent body completely nude. A long cheer went up. Out of the ship marched the students of the atelier. Upon the Wall of Troy a series of contests began….A prize was given for the best male costume and the best couple’s costume. Then came the feminine beauty contest. The girls had to appear without clothes.”

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The Bal des Quat’z’ Arts quickly became one of the premier events of the summer season, and many Parisians desired to attend one of the raucous parties. However, admission was carefully restricted to students of the École and contributing artists, and to gain entrance to the ball each attendee had to surrender their personal invitation at the door, which bore not only their name but also the stamp of the École or atelier they belonged to and the signatures of the Bal’s organizing committee. These invitations were in turn elaborately designed to match the spectacle of the events, and correspondingly were often thematically orientalist, exotic, or primitive, with overtly erotic and sexual imagery. They are a tour de force of the evolution of artistic style, showing the progress from Art Nouveau to modernist primitivism, up through psychedelic design. Almost every invitation bears the warning “Le nu est rigoureusement interdit,” later changed to the more formal “Le comite decline sa responsabilite des pour suites que pourrait entrainer l’exhibition du nu sur la voie publique,” instructions which were presumably expected to be ignored.

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In 1967, the chosen theme was to be the “Tour de Nesle,” but the ball never occurred due to failure to secure a location. And in May of 1968, student strikes at the Sorbonne led to the separation of the architecture department from the École, as well as the end of the Bal des Quat’z’Arts.

F.A. Bernett currently has a remarkable collection of these striking invitations, the themes of which include Ancient Egypt, the Middle Ages, the entrance of Perseus into Athens, Carthage, Babylon, the Incas, the Vikings, the Aztecs, Samurai, and the sack of Rome.

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Bal des Quat’z’Arts.- . Collection of 61 Invitation Cards to the Bal des Quat’z’Arts, Paris, 1907-1966. 61 invitation cards and posters of various sizes, ranging from approx. 6″ x 6″ to 15 3/4″ x 11 13/16″, to the notorious annual costume ball (1892-1966) produced by and for students from the four divisions of the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts de Paris (Architecture, Painting, Sculpture, and Engraving), each lavishly illustrated by an artist or master from one of the ateliers with a representation of the year’s unique theme, most exotic and suggestive interpretations of historical, literary or foreign sources. Depicting decorative and figurative scenes, involving various artistic printmaking techniques including etching, engraving, letterpress, embossing, all in color, some folding, most with original perforated ticket coupons attached. Paris (Bal des Quat’z’Arts) 1907-1966. (47826)

 

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The École de Montmartre in 1920’s Paris

August 17, 2015

              Paris in the late 19th and early 20th century, especially during the periods known as the Belle Époque and les Années Folles, was a hotbed of intellectual and artistic life. During the former, Montmartre was abuzz with cafés, cabarets, and artists’ studios, with a large number of painters […]

Charlie Hebdo’s Ancestors

January 23, 2015

  Journalism in France has a rich tradition of political satire and caricature, dating back many hundreds of years and gaining footholds at many crucial moments in France’s history. Popular in the 17th century, Molière and Jean de la Fontaine earned their fame mocking the upper echelons of society through comic plays or fables, often […]

Under the Matzos Tree.

May 9, 2014

52 Examples of Jewish-American Sheet Music from the Early 20th Century. A collection of English-language sheet music, ca. 4-8 pp. each, in orig. color illus. wrrps., most published in New York, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, or Los Angeles, ca. 1900-1920. (47699) “Under the Matzo Tree: A Ghetto Love Song,” “Yiddle on your Fiddle Play Some Rag […]

Contest of Realism. Novyi Lef.

Thumbnail image for Contest of Realism. Novyi Lef. March 11, 2014

Novyi Lef. Zhurnal Levogo Fronta Iskusstv. Year 1, No. 1 (January 1927) through Year 2, No. 12 (December 1928) (all published). 24 issues, published in 22 vols. as issued, comprising a complete first edition of the Soviet avant-garde monthly designed by Alexandr Rodchenko under the editorial direction of Vladimir Mayakovsky, followed by Sergei Tret’iakov, each […]

This Invitation Cannot Be Sold or Transferred.

Thumbnail image for This Invitation Cannot Be Sold or Transferred. January 21, 2014

Collection of Invitations, Programs, Flyers, Posters, Broadsides and other Ephemeral Items pertaining to the Palladium nightclub, June 1985 – May 1987. ca. 170 items ranging from single sheet to folding invitations, pop ups, and physical objects, executed in print processes including letterpress, stencil, silk screen, and off-set lithography, most in vibrant color. Items ranging in […]

Weltkrieg: German Artists Respond to the Great War.

Thumbnail image for Weltkrieg: German Artists Respond to the Great War. February 15, 2013

Collection of 14 World War I Print Portfolios by German Artists.  Including works by René Beeh, Emma Frenberg, Karl Bober, Bruno Kraustopf, Ursla Stolte, Paul Hartmann, Elsa Weigandt, Erich Dietrich, Hilde Schindler, Georg Mathen, Editha Quaas, Joshua Bampp, Paul Winkler, Josef Eberz, Fritz Gärtner, Erich Gruner, Willi Geiger, Carl Christoph Hartig, Luigi Kasimir, Hermann Struck, […]

Conjuring Pan: Julius Meier-Graefe’s darkly beautiful paean to the new currents of art in Europe, 1895-1899.

Pan. Cover detail. March 22, 2012

Pan.  Years I-V (all published). Edited by Julius Meier-Graefe and Otto Julius Bierbaum.  A complete run of all five years, bound in 21 parts as issued  (altogether 347, 351, 266, 267, 279 pp.)  Sm. folio.  Orig. wrpps., a few chips and tears at edges, some covers professionally repaired.  Berlin (Genossenschaft Pan) 1895-1899.  (45601) In the […]

“Sem au Bois” Update: The Jockey Club de Paris, ca. 1908.

Thumbnail image for “Sem au Bois” Update: The Jockey Club de Paris, ca. 1908. June 7, 2011

“And if you happen to be an historian of Belle Epoque Paris (clever you) and recognize anyone among the caricatures, please let us know in the comments field…”

— UPDATE, May 2011:

When first I wrote about Georges “Sem” Goursat’s 1910 leporello Sem au Bois about a year ago, I ended the post with an invitation, asking readers to share any insights they might have as to the real-world identities of the faces caricatured in Sem’s well-heeled crowd of Boulogne woods revelers.

Last week, Pablo Medrano Bigas, Associate Professor of Design and Image of the imatge de diagramacióFaculty of Fine Arts at Universitat de Barcelona answered the call. Clever him, indeed. And lucky us — not only has he positively identified several of the processional’s key figures, he’s also supplied a wealth of historical background information to further our understanding the illustration’s form and content.

Postcards from the Edge

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Artists’ postcards from the collection of Ulises Carrión, comprised of approximately 900 individual items in 108 small edition sets (most 50-500 copies) by Günter Brus, Stempelplaats, Nickolaus Urban, and Gabor Toth, among others, many signed by the artists and addressed to Carrión.  [44030] Without so much as an envelope to keep their contents private, postcards […]

30 Year in Face 800 Year in Heart: In Memoriam Walasse Ting.

My Shit and My Love December 20, 2010

Brussels. Galerie Smith. My Shit and My Love: Ting. 1961. Signed by Ting on inside front cover; limited to 1099 copies. $250 [46359] Walasse Ting died at the age of 80 on May 17, 2010. He is remembered as a mischievous bon vivant, prodigious womanizer and prolific artist who recognized few boundaries between his practice in […]

The Bricklayer’s Art

Depero illustration for Verzocchi trade catalog. March 2, 2010

[futurism] Trade Catalogue.-  Milan.   Società Anonima Giuseppe Verzocchi.  Veni. VD. Vici. Milan (Società Anon. G. Verzocchi) 1924.  [45934] “All I have,” explained Giuseppe Verzocchi in a 1950 interview with Life magazine, “I owe to work. I intend to build a monument to it through art.”  Verzocchi made good on the promise (and then some), commissioning […]

George Barbier & the Great War

Thumbnail image for George Barbier & the Great War December 1, 2009

Barbier, George, & Jules Meynial.  La Guirlande des Mois.   Anées 1-5 (1917-1921) (all published).  Paris (Meynial) 1917-1921. [45546] Renowned illustrator, costume designer and Art Deco stylist George Barbier was 32 in 1914 when war broke out in Europe.  Although little is known about his personal biography, it stands to reason that he would have been […]

Deadly Nightshade

Thumbnail image for Deadly Nightshade October 31, 2009

Vries, Herman de.   Belladonna: A Film by Herman de Vries, BB Grögel, Susanne Jacob, Steve Leistner, Vince de Vries. Eindhoven, Germany (Edition Apollnius) 1983. [45760] Dutch-born artist Herman de Vries is responsible for this particularly witchy addition to our inventory, Belladonna: A Film, a limited edition (35 copies) handmade artist’s book produced in connection with […]