From the category archives:

Graphic Design

John Heartfield (born Helmut Herzfeld) was an important and ground-breaking artist in Germany, known as the inventor of photomontage. He anglicized his name in protest against the anti-British sentiments prevalent in Germany after the First World War. He was a member of Berlin Club Dada, later assisting with the Erste International Dada-Messe exhibition of 1920. His first photomontages were created for publications associated with the Dada movement as well as book jackets for the publishing house run by his brother, Malik-Verlag.

 

Heartfield is called by some the creator of photomontage, and is best known for having helped to pioneer the use of art as a political weapon, primarily through his famous anti-Nazi and anti-fascist photomontages. These collages were not simple combinations of pictures and text, but appropriated and reused photographs to achieve powerful political effects. He chose recognizable photographs of politicians or events from mainstream news sources, and then took apart and rearranged the images to change their meaning and provide a commentary on the current state of the country. His aim was to expose the dangers and abuses of power within the Nazi regime by highlighting their incompetence, greed, and hypocrisy. His most impactful images played with scale and stark juxtaposition to get their point across. His work shadowed and reflected the chaos and agitation present in Germany in the 1920’s and 1930’s, as it shifted towards social and political upheaval.

 

Heartfield’s images illustrating these tensions were so powerful that they helped to transform the photomontage into a powerful tool of mass communication. Some of his most impactful works were even mass-produced and distributed as posters in the streets of Berlin between 1932 and the Nazi rise to power in 1933, when the SS broke into Heartfield’s apartment and he was forced to flee Germany. Many of his best-known images were created for and published in the pages of AIZ – Die Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung, an illustrated left-wing worker’s journal published in Berlin, beginning in 1930.

 

Most of his sharpest satire was reserved for Adolf Hitler, parodying his poses, gestures, and symbols associated with the dictator. One such example is this image titled “Adolf, the Superman: Swallows Gold and Spouts Junk”. Heartfield has overlaid a well-known photograph of the Führer with a chest x-ray and replaced his heart with a swastika. The x-ray reveals coins collecting in his stomach. Heartfield’s image references a cartoon by Honoré Daumier, and alludes to the large contributions that industrialists were making to the Nazi Party in contradiction to its supposed roots in socialism. This image made such an impact that it was reproduced as a political poster in 1932.

 

Another example is “Der Sinn des Hitlergrusses”. Heartfield exaggerates the difference in size between Hitler and the man behind him, handing him money, to comment again on Hitler’s relationship to Germany’s wealthy industrialists, a puppet accepting financial influence and assistance.

 

“The Meaning of Geneva” depicts a white dove, the symbol of peace, impaled on a bayonet, a symbol of modern warfare. In the background is the League of Nations palace, where the Geneva disarmament conference took place in November 1932. The text accompanying the image reads, “Where Capital Lives, There Can Be No Peace!”

 

 

(Heartfield Photomontages) – AIZ. Die Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung. Year X, No. 1 (n.d., 1931) through Year XII, No. 9 (n.d., 1933). 112 total issues of the illustrated left-wing German worker’s journal, published in Berlin from 1924 to March of 1933, and afterward in Prague and then Paris until 1938, anti-Fascist and pro-Communist in stance, published by Communist political activist Willi Münzenberg and best-known for its propagandistic photomontages by John Heartfield, of which 26 are included in this collection, and including coverage of current events, women’s issues, and gender relations, original fiction and poetry, and above all photography, primarily submitted by amateur photographers. Profusely illustrated throughout. Some very minor defects or small repairs, overall excellent condition. Folio. Original illustrated wrpps. Berlin (Neuer Deutscher Verlag) 1931-1933. (48927)

Before AIZ began, a monthly magazine called Sowjet Russland im Bild (Soviet Russia in Pictures) was published by Internationale Arbeiter-Hilfe (Workers International Relief), a group led by Willi Münzenberg. The magazine contained reports about the recently created Russian Soviet state and the IAH, and in 1922 began reporting on the German proletariat. As the paper expanded coverage and attracted prominent contributors such as George Grosz, Käthe Kollwitz, Maxim Gorki, and George Bernard Shaw, it grew rapidly and reappeared on November 30, 1924 with the new name of AIZ and a new format. Over time it became the most widely read socialist pictorial newspaper in Germany.

The issues included in this collection are: 1931 (Year X): Nos. 1-52; 1932 (Year XI): Nos. 1-52 (lacking no. 49 which was confiscated by the censorship authorities); and 1933 (Year XII): Nos. 1-9 (9 was the final issue published in Berlin after Hitler seized power).

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The history of tarot is long, and probably surprising to some. The earliest known surviving full deck dates to the early 15th century in Italy. Painted by Bonifacio Bembo for the Duke of Milan, it is known as the Visconti-Sforza deck, after the Duke’s family name. In Renaissance Europe, these decks of cards, then known as trionfi, tarocchi, and tarock, were used to play games such as tarocchini in Italy and jeu de tarot in France, trick-taking card games in the same vein as Whist or bridge. In Italy, the aristocracy would also engage in a whimsical game known as “tarocchi appropriati”, in which players were dealt cards from the deck and used the imagery and themes to compose poetry. It wasn’t until the 18th century that the cards began to be used as we think of them today, for divination and cartomancy.

A tarot deck is comprised of 78 cards total. Similar to standard playing cards, there is a set of four suits which vary by region, but often are represented by wands/batons, cups, coins/pentacles, and swords. Each suit is comprised of 14 cards, ten cards numbered one or ace to ten, and four face cards: King, Queen, Knight, and Jack or Knave. These 56 cards are known as the minor arcana. The other 22 cards are known as the major arcana and consist of a group of 21 Trump cards and a single card known as the Fool. Although there are wide varieties in tarot decks, stylistically and regionally, some of the more archetypal arcana cards include the Tower, the Devil, the Magician, Death, the Wheel of Fortune, the Chariot, Justice/Judgment, the Lovers, the Moon, the Sun, and the World. Some tarot decks contain only these 22 major arcana cards, eliminating the four suits.

F.A. Bernett Books currently has in its inventory a collection of over 200 assorted tarot decks, comprising an impressive overview of the history and study of tarot. Most of the decks date to the second half of the 20th century and are primarily European in origin. This collection includes reproductions of important historical decks, decks showcasing the work of modern artists and more whimsical decks centered around fantastical themes. Highlighted below are several of the numerous interesting and eye-catching decks from this collection.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reproduction of the Tarocco di Marsiglia (Svizzera 1804). No. 555 of a limited edition of 2000. Milan (Edizioni Il Meneghello/Cavallini & Co.) n.d.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Il Tarocco di Amerigo Folchi. Artwork by Amerigo Folchi. No. 2528 of a limited edition of 3000. Bologna (Italcards) 1991.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Le Tarot de la Réa. Artwork by Alain Bocher. St-Brieuc, Franc (Les Presses Bretonnes) 1982.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tarocco Fantastico. Artwork by Franco Bruna. No. 160 of a limited edition of 1200, with signed and hand-numbered title card. Turin (Viassone) 1982.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zigeuner Tarot. Artwork by Walter Wegmüller. Basel (Sphinx Verlag/AGMüller) 1982.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Tarot Belline. No. 4366. Paris (J.M. Simon/Grimaud) 1966.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

XXII Arcani – I Tarocchi di Andrea Picini. Artwork by Andrea Picini. No. 123 of a limited edition of 1000, with signed and hand-numbered title card. N.p. (Edizioni Luca) 1977.

 

 

Extensive Collection of Tarot Cards. A large collection of over 200 decks of tarot cards, most dating to the second half of the 20th century with a few earlier and later outlying examples, from publishers in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States, including reproductions of antique tarot decks, modern decks showcasing the work of particular artists, and decks providing a more whimsical approach to the arcana. Some decks unopened, a few decks incomplete, the rest all in excellent condition, with little to no signs of wear. Various sizes. Various cities. 1930s-2000s. Together with an assortment of over 100 catalogues and books related to the tarot, some pertaining to specific decks. (48661)

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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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A Collection of Leftist Political Posters, 1960-2010

April 15, 2016

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 […]

Anni di piombo. The Lead Years, 1968-1982.

Thumbnail image for Anni di piombo. The Lead Years, 1968-1982. August 11, 2014

“Anni di piombo” (“The Lead Years”) has little nostalgic resonance in the US. Unlike “Mai ‘68”, which instantly evokes exhilarating scenes of French student occupations, demonstrations, police brutality, wildcat strikes, riots, and barricades. (And perhaps some fervent threesomes if you made it through Bertolucci’s The Dreamers.) While Mai ‘68 appears retrospectively as both the unfulfilled […]

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 […]

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.