From the category archives:

Print making

The Crimean War broke out on October 16, 1853 and lasted until early 1856, and was fought initially over the rights of Christian minorities in the Holy Land, which was under the domain of the Ottoman Empire. On one side was the Ottoman Empire allied with Britain, Sardinia, and France, who favored the rights of Roman Catholics. On the other (losing) side was Russia, which favored the Eastern Orthodox Church. While the churches worked out their differences and came to a mutually satisfying agreement, Nicholas I of Russia and Emperor Napoleon III of France both refused to budge. Nicholas issued an ultimatum that the Orthodox subjects of the Empire be placed under his protection. Britain attempted to mediate and managed to arrange a compromise that Nicholas agreed to. However, when the Empire demanded additional changes, Nicholas refused and prepared for war. With the support of France and Britain, the Ottomans declared war on Russia in October 1853.

The war began in the Balkans but battles were carried out at the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Caucasus, the White Sea, and in the North Pacific. Eventually neutral countries began to join the alliance. Isolated and facing invasion from the west if the war went on, Russia sued for peace in March 1856. The war ended with the Treaty of Paris, signed on March 30. As a result, the Black Sea became neutral territory with warships and fortifications completely prohibited, which was a major setback to Russian influence in the region. The Ottoman vassal states of Wallachia and Moldavia became largely independent with Christians granted official equality, and the Orthodox Church regained control of the Christian churches in dispute.

The Battle of Kil-Bouroun (Kinburn) was one of many battles fought during the three years of the Crimean War.  Staged at the tip of the peninsula of Kinburn on the south bank of the Dnieper River near the Crimea, it was the site of an attack by the French and British navies on the Russian outpost there during the final phase of the war. On October 17, 1855, France and Britain attacked the outpost with a fleet of ironclad ships, destroying the fortifications within mere hours and suffering almost no damage. This decisive battle helped to signify the decline of the traditional wooden warship.

F.A. Bernett Books currently has in its inventory a scarce and fascinating portfolio of lithographs commemorating this wintry naval battle, with large and detailed depictions of the ships and the ruined fortifications.

Paris, (François-Edmond). Nos Souvenirs de Kil-Bouroun Pendant l’Hiver Passé Dans le Liman du Dnieper, 1855-1856. A beautiful and rare album comprising title page, a map showing the location of the naval battle of Kil-Bouroun (Kinburn), and 15 chromolithographic plates depicting mostly maritime scenes after the battle along the ice-bound Dnieper River, including inside the fort, disembarking onto the ice, and ruined fortifications, lithographed and colored by Eugene Ciceri and Adolphe Bayot, the ships drawn by Antoine Léon Morel-Fatio, after drawings by Paris. Some details appear to be hand-colored. Some scattered foxing, small stain to inside front cover, a few small tears along binding, spine very slightly shaken. Folio. Full leather, raised spine. Paris (Arthus-Bertrand/Becquet Freres) n.d. (circa 1856). Very scarce; as of October 2017, WorldCat locates only two holdings in North America of this suite. 48752

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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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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, Richard Müller and Heinrich Vogeler. Munich, Berlin, etc., 1914-1917. (47377)

The First World War may have been the last global conflict to be so comprehensively illustrated and interpreted by graphic artists.  Only a few decades later, Capra and the photographers who followed his example would claim battlefield documentation largely for the camera.  With the centennial of the war’s commencement looming next year, F.A. Bernett Books has acquired a collection of print portfolios that demonstrate how German visual artists represented and responded to the Great War.

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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.

“Le degré de perfection des productions de l’imprimerie d’un pays est une des marques de son degré de civilisation.” Printing in Japan, ca. 1915.

Thumbnail image for “Le degré de perfection des productions de l’imprimerie d’un pays est une des marques de son degré de civilisation.” Printing in Japan, ca. 1915. April 4, 2011

Sawada, Yozo. Insatsu Taikan (Great Atlas of Printing).  Unpaginated album.  Sm. folio.  Silk-covered boards, tie-bound.  Osaka (Nihon Insatsu Kaisha) 1915.  [46467] Following the death of his father, the Meiji Emperor, on July 30, 1912, Crown Prince Yoshihito ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne of Japan to become the Taishō Emperor. After three years of Imperial preparations, […]

Felix Vallotton’s Reinvention of the Woodcut

Thumbnail image for Felix Vallotton’s Reinvention of the Woodcut February 1, 2011

Meier-Graefe, Julius. Felix Vallotton, Biographie: Des Kuenstlers nebst dem Wichtigsten teil seines Bisher Publicierten Werkes & Einer Anzahl Unedierter Originalplatten; De Cet Artiste avec la Partie la Plus Importante de son Oeuvre Editee et Differentes Gravures Originales & Nouvelles. Berlin/Paris (J. A. Stargardt/Edmond Sagot) n.d. (ca. 1898).  Freitag 12821. [41835] Painter, playwright, critic and man […]