SOME MEDITERRANEAN EXOTICS AND SHIPS AS WAR REFUGEES: NEW ARRIVALS AT THE WOLFSONIAN LIBRARY

•December 16, 2014 • Leave a Comment

As Miami and Fort Lauderdale have become important hubs of the cruise line industry, our museum library has become one of the more important repositories of print materials documenting oceanic travel from the interwar and post-Second World War periods. Former Florida International University Director of Libraries, Dr. Laurence Miller has been volunteering in the Wolfsonian-FIU library for several years now, lending his expertise on the subject and helping us to catalog these materials and prepare for their digitization. A life-long ocean liner aficionado and avid collector of cruise industry promotional materials, Dr. Miller donated his substantial collection to The Wolfsonian library. That collection includes tens of thousands of passenger ship brochures, deck plans, menus, and other items in the printed format. Most recently he has been cataloging some promised gifts of museum founder, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Here is his report:

Mitchell Wolfson recently returned from Europe with some new brochures featuring a number of exotic and long-forgotten liners of the past. Most of the ships depicted in these advertising pamphlets and deck plans were from the Mediterranean area. Those of us working with the museum’s ocean liner collection, and those who accessing it virtually via the web, greatly appreciate Mr. Wolfson’s generosity. These newly acquired promised gifts contribute a refreshing perspective to the collections we are developing.

Just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, America was in the process of replacing its large fleet of First World War standard vessels with new ships, the product of such renowned American designers as Gibbs & Cox and George Sharp. As the new ships were completed, the older vessels were sometimes sold or leased to neutral European countries–this in spite of their potential wartime use. Two vessels put on the market were the Dollar Liner ships, President Wilson and President Lincoln.

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PHOTOGRAPHIC ILLUSTRATION OF ONE OF THE DOLLAR LINE “535”

One excellent market for this tonnage was Franco’s “neutral” Spain. It is not, therefore, surprising that in 1940, these two vessels were sold to Ibarra, a private Spanish company. They were renamed Cabo de Buena Esperanza and Cabo de Hornos. Throughout the years of the Second World War, these ships, dating from 1921-22, were almost the only passenger vessels still providing regular service between Europe and South America–and available to carry Jewish and other political refugees looking to escape persecution in Europe.

Below is an artist’s impression of ships in Ybarra colors:

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As an avenue of escape, these ships did not elude the notice of the Nazis, aided by the Spanish–friends, if not formal allies.  Among the documents in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. is a typed list dated May 21, 1941 of 45 passengers on board Cabo de Buena Esperanza sailing from Bilbao, Spain heading for South America. The German-language document included, among other data, detailed information including: passenger destination, former address, citizenship, maiden name, and travel expenses. All of this was useful information as the Nazis had imposed restrictions on Jews taking currency out of the country.

Still sailing in the late 1950’s and still displaying their American colonial décor, the two Cabos were by then the sole survivors of a large class of sixteen World War One era American standard ships known according to their length simply as 535’s. Weighing 14,100 gross tons, they accommodated 260 first and 300 third class passengers and carried a great deal of cargo.

Below are some photographs of the ship interior under Spanish flag:

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Mr. Wolfson also brought with him a commemorative brochure issued when the replacement ships, Cabo San Roque and Cabo San Vincente were brought into service in 1957 and 1959 respectively. The article pays tribute to the two earlier ships, Cabo de Hornos and Buena Esperanza and the sentimental attachment to them on the part of many past passengers.

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Also in his baggage was a brochure from the late 1940s advertising Home Line’s Brasil, then offering basic accommodation for Italian emigrants headed for new homes in South America. Completed in 1907 as the Virginian of Britain’s Allan Line and the first liner powered by steam turbines, her long career included World War I service as a troop ship for Great Britain; and as Drottingholm under the Swedish flag, in transatlantic service for the Swedish American Line. Greta Garbo was a frequent passenger for her trips home to Sweden. During the Second World War, Drottingholm was chartered by the Red Cross and served belligerents during hostilities in the repatriation of captured servicemen, notably including British airmen from Germany and German soldiers from Britain.

In common with almost anything that would float, she served postwar as an emigrant ship. In this case, she sailed for Home Lines carrying refugees first to South America; then as Homeland, with Europeans migrating to North America.

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Among the other rare items Mr. Wolfson brought to the library was a deck plan, yellowed by age, of the Reina Victoria Eugenia. This little-known ship belonged to Spain’s La Compania Transatlantica. The vessel was bombed and sunk at Barcelona in 1939 during the Spanish Civil War by Franco’s forces. By then, she bore what was the more politically correct name of Argentina.

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On a more aesthetic note, there was a brochure on Gydnia America Line’s Sobieski, a lovely ship sailing for a then well-known Polish company. The brochure publicizes her postwar service between Italy and New York. Peter Kohler, an authority on Italian ships and designers, noted that much of her furniture came from the Oceania and Neptunia. These prewar Italian ships were the work of Gustavo Pulitzer Finali, who was involved in Sobieski’s postwar refurbishment. The fittings had been placed in storage before both ships were sunk September 18, 1941 by a British submarine. The liners had been carrying Italian troops to Libya.

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Note the chairs with holes in back–a Gustave Pulitzer Finali trademark–probably from Oceania and Neptunia.

During the era of Soviet expansion, few tourists visited Poland and so, displaced from the run for which she had been designed, Sobieski was also a war refugee after a fashion. Finally, and perhaps inevitably, the ship was sold to the Soviet Union in 1950.

Supplementing these Mediterranean items was a truly beautiful Canadian Pacific brochure advertising their service from Canada to Europe via the St. Lawrence River. The piece is notable for the rich texture of its paper, and its fine b&w photographic illustrations of the ships and their interiors, complete with stylishly dressed models from the late 1920s. The vessels included the Empress of France and the Empress of Australia. The latter ship had been built in Germany, but was turned over to Great Britain as a prize in the aftermath of the Great War.

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RAZZLE DAZZLE, ART BASEL: A WOLFSONIAN LIBRARY EXHIBIT ON THE “GREAT WAR” AND THE DECORATION OF THE MUSEUM’S FAÇADE

•November 29, 2014 • Leave a Comment

This past week has been an especially busy one here at The Wolfsonian-FIU, as we worked to put up a new library exhibit and began preparations for the festivities associated with Art Basel. Even the façade of our historic Mediterranean-revival building is in the process of being transformed with a “dazzle painting”-inspired look in anticipation of the influx of contemporary art lovers.

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This past Veteran’s Day, The Wolfsonian opened a brand new exhibit to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War. Titled Myth + Machine: The First World War in Visual Culture, the exhibition displays a variety of paintings, posters, portfolio plates, photographs, and sculpture and focuses on artists and designers’ responses to the first global, total war of the industrial age.

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The Great War was profoundly shaped by new technologies ranging from mortars and machine guns, submarines and tanks, war planes and zeppelins, flame throwers as well as chemical weapons. These new instruments of death and destruction led to a bloody stalemate on the Western Front in which armies remained mired in muddy trenches and died in droves trying to cross the hellish “No man’s Land” in between the lines.

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GIFT OF FRANCIS XAVIER LUCA & CLARA HELENA PALACIO LUCA

Such horrific battlefield conditions challenged popular conceits that war could be a heroic and chivalric test of manhood. Propaganda campaigns were waged to romanticize and recast the conflict in a different light.

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While the early biplanes provided important reconnaissance of enemy lines, aerial “dog fights” and bombing runs were not decisive in the Great War, propaganda prints from the era suggested otherwise. Desperate to promote the war as a heroic struggle, artists in the service of the war created images of the daring “aces” and their flying machines.

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I spent much of the last week doing some last-minute editing and revising of label text to accompany a new Great War-themed Wolfsonian library show titled: The Children’s Crusade.

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I am particularly proud of the exhibit because the curators were Florida International University undergraduates taking my War & Society course this semester. The exhibit focuses on propaganda on the home front, and more particularly on the “crusade” to capture the hearts and minds of even the youngest citizens.

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Nationalistic propaganda programs churned out a plethora of patriotic pamphlets, postcards, coloring books, games, puzzles, nursery rhyme books, and young adult novels. These were designed to educate children in the terminology of the war, demonize the enemy, and provide children with a sense that their contributions were also important to the war effort.

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GIFTS OF PAMELA K. HARER

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To add to the materials selected and laid out in the cases, the students created and I edited a supplementary Powerpoint presentation played on a television screen in the exhibition space. Thanks to the efforts of Visual Resources Photographer, David Almeida, and Digital Assets Manager, Derek Merleaux, we were able to create GIF files of a French children’s book that employed printed flaps that allow the viewer to experience the devastation of war through before-and-after visuals.

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Although the pre-war naval arms race between Britain and Germany had led to heightened tensions and made war increasingly likely, ironically, the great battleships and dreadnoughts did not have much of an impact on the war since most of the German fleet remained bottled up during the war. The humble German U-Boat, however, greatly shaped the course of the conflict.

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Germany’s policy of unrestricted submarine warfare pushed America away from its strict neutrality with the sinking of the British passenger ship the Lusitania in May, 1915, and ultimately pulled them into the conflict in 1917.

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To counter the devastating successes of the German submarines, British and American ships were camouflaged with “Dazzle Painting” in order to make them more difficult targets. Since their smokestacks made it was impossible to hide Allied ships, a new pattern of camouflage was applied using bold stripes and Modernist, abstract, and zig-zag patterns.

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These designs were intended to confuse submariners peering out from their periscopes and keep them from determining the position and projected path of their intended target.

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The “dazzle painting” technique of the First World War also served as the inspiration for contemporary artist Michelle Weinberg. In tandem with our war show and the Art Basel celebrations, this artist has redecorated the museum façade with her Intricate Pattern Overlay.

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GIVE THANKS TO TED PIETSCH, GET INTO MY CAR: OR, AUTOMOBILES OF DREAMS FROM THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU LIBRARY

•November 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment

My usual route to The Wolfsonian museum was blocked this week when Miami Beach’s Convention Center Drive was closed off to local traffic as the Miami International Auto Show came to town. Outside the convention center is a miniature roller coaster-like structure designed to allow a fleet of Jeeps to demonstrate their prowess at climbing and descending the steepest of hills. Inside the convention hall are an array of automobiles, SUVs, trucks, and crossovers. This year, for the first time in the auto show’s history, the event features a unique attraction inspired by urban “street” art from the historic Wynwood District. In Cars Meet Art, famous graffiti artists have painted a variety of cars and matching murals. In Ally Auto Alley, auto show attendees will have the opportunity to paint on a virtual car, and to share their own visions via social media. Sharf Associate Librarian Rochelle Pienn had the opportunity this morning to “rummage” through the Wolfsonian library’s collection of automobile-design materials with the aim of showcasing some examples of exotic car design from the mid-to-late twentieth century. Here is her report:

On any ordinary day in South Beach, cars of every origin and style zip along Washington Avenue and Ocean Drive, creating a moving tourist attraction. This week, the Miami Auto Show descends upon the city, replete with cars of cutting edge technology, out-of-this-world design, and yes, even a Maserati parade.

Photo by Charlie Romero from Roadfly.

Photo by Charlie Romero from Roadfly.

The love affair with all things automotive did not begin with the retro-psychedelic roadster shown here at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The symbiotic relationship between man, woman, and driving machine is evidenced by innovations sprung from imaginations gone by. The Theodore W. Pietsch collection, an extensive archive maintained by his son and namesake, Theodore W. Pietsch III, was gifted to The Wolfsonian-FIU. The collection features advertisements, illustrations, and sketchbooks of motor vehicles from the 1930s through the post-World War II era.

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A prolific car artist, Ted Pietsch hand drew all types and classes of luxury automobiles. This illustration, circa 1947, comes from an original sketchbook.

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This pencil drawing shows the sharp lines of the Packard dashboard. The Packard Motor Car Company in Detroit, founded in 1899, was one of the premier American luxury auto-making firms for nearly sixty years.

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This futuristic image comes from an untitled sketchbook. Pietsch labeled the car “Wraith.” While Pietsch designed cars for most American factories, his fantasy creations also extended to the international scene.

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This 1949 drawing of a “Ghost” almost begs for a place at the 2014 Miami Auto Show.

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This pastel of a Plymouth shows a sportier side of the brand.

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A 1945 pencil outline expresses the generous size and comfort of the Chrysler, without sacrificing artistic elements of the outer form.

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This low-profile convertible was designed for Mercedes-Benz in 1943. A lull in production for the brand occurred around this time until after the Second World War.

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Dated 1950, the “Banshee” is a hard-topped two-door roadster, poised to race.

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The huge shadow cast by this 1946 orange four-door sedan indicates its significant breadth and girth. Its pointed tail lights and column support between roof and rear hatch give it a futuristic flair.

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Aerodynamic construction required careful measurements. Pietsch drew this top-diagonal front and side view of an experimental design with aerodynamic rear wheel wells, rear fin, and bulbous glass top on a grid.

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These views of a racecar are drawn to scale.

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Pietsch also sketched car ornaments. In 1940, the Studebaker was still a hallmark of automobile quality and reliability.

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The Theodore W. Pietsch collection also contains promotional materials and advertisements. This cross section is of the Auburn Twelve Salon Chassis, circa 1935.

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The La Salle of the day, as seen in GMC’s customer brochure.

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The brand new Graham shows an elegant couple enjoying the ride.

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An earlier image of the Buick keeps with the theme of fun for the two of you.

To see more original sketches and rare brochures and advertisements from the Theodore W. Pietsch collection, (a gift facilitated by our generous Wolfsonian-FIU library donor Frederic A. Sharf), peruse our digital catalog online or visit us on 10th Street and Washington Avenue, on your way to the Miami Auto Show. Once upon a time, the Wolfsonian-FIU building actually stored marvelous antique cars on the 3rd floor, where the library is today. But that is another story …

WAR, LA GUERRE, 戦争, AND MORE WAR! THREE FIU VISITS, A NEW RESEARCH FELLOW, AND PROMISED GIFTS COME TO THE WOLFSONIAN LIBRARY

•November 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Over the course of the last three days, the Wolfsonian-FIU librarians provided three lectures and displays of materials dealing with the propaganda of the First and Second World Wars; heard the introductory presentation of our newest scholar-in-residence, Phillip Hu, here conducting research on our holdings of rare Russo-Japanese and Sino-Japanese war books and ephemera; and picked up some promised gifts (also documenting the two world wars) from the docks at Port Everglades.

The first Florida International University field trip had been arranged by Amanda Snyder, a Postdoctoral Fellow in Historical Writing. Her history class has been discussing the use of propaganda during the Great War (and its sequel) and she arranged a visit to the museum library Thursday afternoon in order to have them directly engage with some of our visual primary source materials, a particular strength of our collection.

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As we have been preparing for our next library exhibit on children and propaganda from the First World War, the students had the opportunity to get a “sneak peek” at some of the items selected by other FIU student curators. The library holds a significant collection of children’s books, puzzles, games, and postcards published during the Great War. Some vilify the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, or more generally excoriate the German invaders and occupiers of neutral Belgium.

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MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. PROMISED GIFTS

Another two books in the collection alternatively justify or condemn the Italians for “reneging” on her alliance to the Central Powers and joining instead the allies in return for promises of the Austrian provinces of Trento and Trieste at the war’s end.

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MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. PROMISED GIFT

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GIFT OF PAMELA K. HARER

These were supplemented with Second World War propaganda, much of it produced under the auspices of the Repubblica Sociale Italiana. After the Allied forces invaded Sicily in July 1943, King Victor Emmanuel III dismissed and had Mussolini arrested; Il Duce was afterwards rescued by his Nazi allies and brought to Salò where they established the German-dominated puppet state. This revivified Fascist regime continued to fight to maintain control over the Northern provinces, publishing vitriolic anti-Bolshevik, anti-British, anti-American, and anti-Semitic propaganda in a desperate attempt to frighten Italians into continuing to contest the Allied “invaders.”

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Much of the propaganda (including posters from the Works on Paper department) used religious themes and imagery as well as racist stereotypes when depicting enemy troops.

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The following day, we hosted two visits by FIU students: first, FIU’s Senior French Instructor and French Program Coordinator, Dr. María Antonieta García brought a group of students to the museum library to look at some French materials dating from the unfortunate period of the German occupation during the Second World War.

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Our library has important holdings of propaganda produced by the Vichy regime (which collaborated with the Nazis) as well as some materials about the resistance.

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MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. PROMISED GIFT

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GIFT OF PAMELA K. HARER

While presenting these materials to the faculty and student visitors, I was not on hand to greet our newest researcher, Philip K. Hu, who began his residential fellowship this same morning. Fortunately, Sharf Associate Librarian, Rochelle Pienn, who oversees our extensive holdings of materials on the Far East, was able to attend his introductory talk. Here is her report and a few images from the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection which this scholar will be using:

The Wolfsonian-FIU Library welcomed our new fellow in residence today. Philip K. Hu is an Associate Curator of Asian Art at the Saint Louis Art Museum, where he oversees a vast objects collection consisting of Asian textiles, paintings, ceramics, and other treasures. I gave Mr. Hu a brief introduction and tour of the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection last year. He was excited to learn that the content of the materials were particularly strong in his areas of research interest, which include the Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War, and Japanese propaganda during the Meiji period (1868-1912). During his fellowship, Mr. Hu will explore original photograph albums visually documenting personal accounts of this progressive time in Japanese culture. The discoveries Mr. Hu makes in the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection will help enhance his intended 2016 Japanese Art exhibition at the Saint Louis Art Museum.

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GIFTS OF JEAN S. AND FREDERIC A. SHARF

Almost as soon as I had cleared away the display of French World War Two materials, I had to set out materials for another group of FIU students interested in another aspect of that conflict: the war for the art and soul of Europe.

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On Thursday, November 6th, the FIU Student Government Association sponsored a lecture by Robert Edsel, author of the best-selling book, Monuments Men, recently brought to the silver screen by actor/director George Clooney.

As the film deals with issues of art and preservation and the Nazi “rape of Europa,” I decided to lay out some of our rare library materials focusing on artwork championed as good German art, and that denigrated as “degenerate” art by the Nazi regime. As a young man, Adolf Hitler dreamed of becoming a great artist. His aquarelles (or watercolors) dating from the period of the First World War do show his promise as an artist, but also reveal his prejudices, obsessions, and limitations. The watercolors are romanticized depictions of bombed out buildings and ruins from the war, and invariably leave out human figures.

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After the art school dropout rose to power in Germany, he reinvented himself as a great patron of the arts, and, ironically, became the subject of “patriotic” German artists.

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Hitler used his position as der Führer to define for the German people what constituted good, German art (art in a romantic, idealized, or classical vein), and what would be reviled as “degenerate” art (expressionist, abstract, or Modern art) to be purged from the Fatherland.

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To reinforce the regime’s artistic dictates, Hitler and his cultural authorities organized public exhibitions in Munich ridiculing “Degenerate art” and others celebrating “Great German Art” that continued well into the war years.

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MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. LONG-TERM LOAN

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In a book titled: Deutsche Kunst und entartete “Kunst” (German Art and Degenerate “Art”), the Nazis made their artistic pronouncements explicit by pairing examples of decadent and good folk art.

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There were very few German artists who dared defy the regime’s cultural policies: one such courageous soul was Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945), a painter, graphic artist, and sculptor who had lost her youngest son during the Great War. Her etchings, woodcuts, and lithograph prints reflected her passionate commitment to Socialism and pacifism. While Nazi authorities forced her to resign from the faculty of the Akademie der Künste in 1933 and the Gestapo threatened her with arrest and deportation to a concentration camp in 1936, her international notoriety kept them from acting on those threats.

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After dealing with so much war material over the last two days, I had the chance to review today some new materials that arrived “just off the boat” today when museum founder Mitchell Wolfson Jr. arrived in Port Everglades with several trunks full of promised gifts. I took a couple of quick snaps of a few of those items which might seamlessly have been integrated into the earlier displays had they arrived but a few days earlier.

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PROMISED GIFTS OF MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR.

HALLOWEEN, WOLFSONIAN-STYLE: DR. CALIGARI, NOSFERATU, AND THE HORRORS OF THE “GREAT WAR”

•October 31, 2014 • Leave a Comment

This last evening, The Wolfsonian screened two silent horror classics of the post-World War era: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari directed by Robert Wiene (1921) and Nosferatu (1922).

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As I frequently teach a film and history course at Florida International University, I had been asked to introduce these German expressionist films in the context of the “Great War” and its denouement. I am currently teaching a course on the First World War at the university and have been immersed in the history of this era. Reviewing the films in this context had permitted me to see them through the eyes of those who had lived through those dark times. I thought that I might share with my readers some of those observations.

I had always admired the incredible German expressionist and Cubist influenced set designs of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. But in re-viewing the film and thinking about its historical context, I found myself drawn especially to the faces of the actors as well as the dramatic sets.

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The film begins with Francis, a sickly and agitated young man, recounting the traumatic experiences that have brought him to his present state. Francis resembles the tens of thousands of young men who returned from the war suffering from “war neurosis.” Another character, Dr. Caligari’s somnambulist puppet, Cesare, is even more pallid and sickly in appearance and resembles a more severe case of “shell-shock”—a living zombie.

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Lynd Ward, an American artist visiting Germany at the time of the film’s release was doubtlessly influenced by the German expressionist film, as can be seen in his first graphic novel, God’s Man.

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In the atmosphere of disillusionment that followed Germany’s defeat in the Great War, expressionist artists and bitter social critics like Georg Grosz (1893-1959) railed against the “Moloch of Militarism.” Grosz, for example, produced disturbing works that focused on the hideously disfigured soldiers and shell-shocked veterans of the war.

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The millions of young Germans who had been conscripted to fight in the Great War had no other choice but to kill under the orders of the older Junker-class military officers. Similarly in the film, the twenty-three year old somnambulist, Cesare, has no will of his own and carries out the murderous orders of the puppet master, Dr. Caligari, depicted as a shadowy and sinister old man in a top hat.

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The plot begins with Francis and his friend Alan entering Caligari’s mysterious exhibit set up in a tent at an annual fair in Holstenwall. Alan, a young man obsessed with knowing his fate, asks the somnambulist-oracle how long he has to live and is told “Till dawn.” During the Great War, dawn was the time of day typically chosen for the suicidal attacks launched against enemy trenches. Hearing this ill tiding, the young man’s face contorts into a range of expressions that mirror those of shell-shocked soldiers: stunned disbelief, maniacal laughter, and a vacant stare as he struggles to come to grips with the horror of the pronouncement.

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Just as the young men recruited and drafted into military service in the Great War were expected to kill other young men without remorse, Dr. Caligari’s hypnotized automaton has no compunctions killing Alan to fulfill his own prophesy. But when Caligari orders Cesare to kill Francis’s fiancée, Jane, the somnambulist wavers. It seems as if he, like the soldiers who were encouraged by propaganda posters to imagine themselves as the defenders of women and children, was unable to transgress that moral code.

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IMAGE COURTESY OF LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Instead, Cesare kidnaps and carries his intended victim through a surreal trench-like landscape past defoliated trees that resemble barbed wire.

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The sets of the film’s twisted world were designed by Hermann Warm and show the influence of Cubism, Expressionism, and wartime experiments with camouflage. Many appear to depict shell bursts.

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According to Anton Kaes, author of Shell Shock Cinema: Weimar Culture and the Wounds of War, the shadowy showman, Dr. Caligari was modeled after Jean-Martin Charcot, a famous Parisian psychiatrist.

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Charcot was known for employing hypnosis on his psychiatric patients during his medical training sessions.

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Une leçon clinique à la Salpêtrière / Andre Brouillet (1886)

According to Kaes, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was intended to be a scathing indictment of those psychiatrists who, under pressure from the military command during the war, dismissed the reality of “shell shock,” employed electric shocks to cure “war neurosis,” and used threats of torture to frighten “fakers” back to active duty on the front.

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Ultimately, the audience is left to wonder if they can trust their traumatized narrator. Is Dr. Caligari a murderous showman and charlatan? A war psychiatry criminal? The mad director of an insane asylum? Or a benign and well-intentioned psychiatrist interested in curing an insane patient?

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Director F. W. Nurnau’s Nosferatu, released in 1922, also had much to say about the blood-letting of the Great War and the global influenza pandemic that brought about the armistice on November 11, 1918. This film, too, is set in a film noir world of darkness and shadow.

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Unlike the surreal landscape of Dr. Caligari, the sets of Nosferatu are realistic. The plot begins with an old and creepy estate agent in Wisbourg, Germany convincing his young employee, Hutter, to travel to Transylvania to sell Count Orlok an abandoned house. Seen from the perspective of the prison-like window panes of Hutter’s own home, the dark windows and façade of the deserted building across the street resembles tombstones interspersed with crosses—reminders of war and death.

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Not unlike the millions of young men who eagerly volunteered when war was declared, young Hutter readily agrees to do his master’s bidding. He is happy to embark on the venture to a foreign land, even if in doing so he will have to abandon his marriage bed, and despite a warning that it might cost him “some pain” and a “little blood.”

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In pursuit of his master’s business, Hutter encounters the vampire—depicted in the film as a deathly ghoulish figure rather than as the suave and seductive lady’s man made famous by Hungarian-American actor, Bela Lugosi in the 1930s.

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In what appears superficially to be a medieval reference and motif, death accompanies the vampire in the form of a plague of rats.

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For veterans and survivors of the Great War, however, the rats would have had a more immediate and visceral association coming from the horrific conditions of trench warfare. Rats so infested the trenches of the combatants on the Western front, that rat hunts were regularly organized to deal with the vermin.

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(LEFT) RESULTS OF A TERRIER’S FIFTEEN MINUTE HUNT IN THE FRENCH TRENCHES; (RIGHT) RESULTS OF A GERMAN RAT HUNT

William Smithson Broadhead (1888-1960), a British war artist, included the following sketch in a letter he penned to his parents dated April 1, 1916:

There’s one thing I strongly object to & that is the plague of rats here. At night they run about in regiments. A night never passes without my being awakened by one either running across my head or jumping onto my body. They are such big bounders too…I think the plague is caused by the fact that there are hundred[s] of dead still unburied not many miles from here and another thing which encourages them is the habit of the French soldiers throwing their rubbish & refuge about! We always bury ours.

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Courtesy of: http://shefflibraries.blogspot.com/2014/08/hoof-prints-over-western-front-world.html

As disturbing as the nightly gymnastics of Broadhead’s trench rats must have been, it was nothing compared to the horrors of seeing them feasting on the dead and dying.

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MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. PRIVATE COLLECTION

One book published in 1920 shows the terrifying realities soldiers suffered and endured as they lived and died among the rats.

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MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. PRIVATE COLLECTION

Other artists remembering the Great War also gruesomely portrayed the horror of rats feasting on fallen soldiers.

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MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. PROMISED GIFT

An anti-German watercolor by G. Pretty dated 1916 does not paint a pretty picture of Prussian militarism and Kultur.

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A close-up of a detail of the painting reveals the ape-like German soldiers traveling with a pack of rats, one of whom menaces a broken doll.

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In Nosferatu it is not the vampire, Count Orlok, but the plague that depopulates the village of the protagonists.

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The audience witnesses (through a peephole and barred window) a procession of coffins passing through the empty street.

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This also would have resonated with the post-war audience as the Spanish influenza pandemic hit in the last year of the war.

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MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. LONG-TERM LOAN

Infecting one-fifth of the world’s population, the highly contagious influenza epidemic claimed the lives of 30-60 million victims—the majority between the ages of 20 and 40 dying within mere hours of contracting the virus! By way of comparison, the Great War claimed the lives of 10 million combatants (2 million of who succumbed to disease) and another 7 million civilians; some 20 million more were left alive but seriously wounded. A total of 675,000 Americans perished in the flu pandemic; nearly half of U.S. servicemen who died during the war fell to the flu rather than in combat.

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“Demonstration at the Red Cross Emergency Ambulance Station in Washington, D.C., during the influenza pandemic of 1918.”—National Photo Co., via the Library of Congress website

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Courtesy of http://www.flu.gov/pandemic/history/1918/the_pandemic/iowa_flu2.jpg

It is not coincidence that the influenza epidemic hit its deadliest spike just one month before the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918. The pandemic had left too many soldiers weakened, sick, or dying to continue the bloody conflict!

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It’s The Great War, Charlie Brown, or: First World War Images from the Wolfsonian-FIU Library

•October 22, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Today’s blog post comes to you courtesy of Sharf Associate Librarian Rochelle Pienn. Ms. Pienn works exclusively on the extensive collection of rare books, photograph albums, journals, diaries, and other materials donated to The Wolfsonian-FIU library by Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf. These primary source materials provide an intimate glimpse into the lives of soldiers and sailors participating in the many colonial expeditions, wars, and conflicts of  the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Ms. Pienn’s post today focuses on a rare “picture” book utilizing the photographic rotogravure process to present the public with glimpses of the European war their own American Expeditionary Force troops would be entering in 1917. Here is her report:

Most Americans of my generation grew up watching Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” cartoon characters philosophize their way through the major holidays in animated television specials. As the calendar creeps closer to Halloween, I’m reminded of how Linus waited for the Great Pumpkin overnight, only to be frightened into a faint by Snoopy in his “World War One flying ace” Halloween costume.

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Copyright 1966 Charles M. Schulz

I would hazard to say that at five years old, Charlie Brown’s famous dog dressed up as the decimator of the German Red Baron was my initial induction into any kind of history on the subject. While cartoonist Charles M. “Sparky” Schulz provided an adoring public with a legacy of family TV and newspaper comic strips, it is necessary to go back in time to find serious news photographs and commentary contemporary to the First World War. The Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection at The Wolfsonian contains a comprehensive Portfolio of the World War produced by The New York Times in 1917.

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The photographic images in this striking portfolio were reproduced using the rotogravure printing method.

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The use of airplane aviation on a large military scale premiered during the Great War. When the U.S. became involved in the war, cadets were trained to fly.

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 This illustration indicates the imposing nature of the German bombers.

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Reporting covered everything from fighting machines, foreign dignitaries, and frontline warfare, to medical care, human interest, and gender roles. These photographs emphasize the official roles of women in the British and American armies.

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Manfred von Richthofen (the real Red Baron) perished near the Somme River in France during an attack by Canadian fighters. This image shows Canadian soldiers on the front in good spirits, “despite war’s grim realities.”

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War affected industry and trade throughout the world. Thousands of hungry French troops necessitated a steady supply of food; here, Moroccan hogs are transported across the Mediterranean, presumably to become future bacon rations.

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Nations all over Europe lived in uncertainty. Switzerland struggled to protect its neutrality; its army was not untouched by the immediate threat of the War.

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Other new technological dangers of war included German gas attacks. American cavalry, along with their horses, needed protective gear.

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The material destruction of war is darkly evident in this capture of a battle’s aftermath.

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While “Rosie the Riveter” represented the women factory workers during the Second World War, women clearly took on many similar tasks on assembly lines during the Great War.

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War photographers also shot non-combat outtakes of soldiers, such as these comical pictures of men attempting to bathe on the front.

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The First World War wrought havoc on many countries. Czar Nicholas II of Russia entered the war with questionable resources along with the growing resentment of the Russian population. Below is one of the last photographs taken of him after his abdication of the throne. A year later, he and his entire family would be assassinated by the Bolsheviks.

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This map shows the vast territories affected during the First World War. By land, sea, and air, armies and navies clashed for dominance, territorial rights, and self-determination.

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The First World War resulted in new sets of borders, changing leadership, and shifting politics. Peace would be the tenuous shroud of a battle-weary populace. One hundred years ago, it was referred to as the “Great War,” with no premonition of what the future held. To further commemorate the centennial of the First World War, we invite you to visit the Wolfsonian-FIU library and explore our rich archives.

WE DID RETURN: MEL VICTOR’S WWII PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE PHILIPPINES AT THE WOLFSONIAN

•October 21, 2014 • 1 Comment

Yesterday marked the seventieth-year anniversary of General Douglas MacArthur’s historic walk through the surf on Leyte Island, marking the return of American troops to the Philippine soil–“soil consecrated in the blood of our two peoples” as the general addressed U.S. servicemen by radio. MacArthur had been ordered by President Roosevelt to evacuate from the Philippines, and had made his famous vow “I shall return.”

General MacArthur’s landing in Leyte inspired Filipino resistance fighters and U.S. soldiers that the tide was turning in the Pacific. But MacArthur’s landing and radio address was only a symbolic victory, and one that would be followed by a desperate and bloody struggle to liberate and take the Philippines back from the Japanese occupiers and the powerful Imperial Japanese Navy that still dominated the seas around the islands. Thanks to the generosity of Donna Victor, I can share with you today some images of that ferocious fight in the Philippines taken by her father, Melvin Victor, an official war photographer.

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Mel Victor’s photographs document just how hard-won the battle for the Philippines would be. Some of his aerial photographs of Leyte Island show deceptively peaceful and idyllic views of the island immediately adjacent to rows of U.S. landing craft delivering military equipment and supplies to support the U.S. liberators.

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Other photographs from the Mel Victor WWII Pacific Theater Collection show some of the strafing and bombing runs made in the Gulf of Leyte against the Japanese Navy prowling the waters adjacent to the Philippines.

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One of the most famous of the Victor photographs taken during the war was one showing a “Jap destroyer” or frigate “sunk in the S. China Sea.” What makes the image so compelling is its capture of the human dimension of the life and death struggle in the Pacific.

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Liberation of the Philippines came with a hefty price tag. The month-long battle for the Philippine capital  in February 1945, involved some of the worst urban combat experienced in the Pacific. By the end of the battle, the U.S. Army had suffered more than 6,500 casualties, the Japanese had lost more than 16,500, and some 100,000 Filipino civilians had been killed. Victory over the Japanese was achieved only after most of Manila–once lauded as the Pearl of the Orient)–lay in ruins.

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A series of Victor’s aerial photographs of the city provide a powerful evidence of the ferocity of the battle.

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In one photograph, we see the ruins of South Manila, formerly the “most beautiful section of the city.” All that is left are the charred shells of the Post Office, a large theater behind it to the left, and the remains of the City Hall to the right.

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Mel Victor survived the war and made a home, raised a family, and career for himself in Miami Beach. While he continued to work as a photographer, his post-war photos of Miami Beach beauty pageants provide a stark contrast to his earlier work capturing the horrors of the war in the Pacific.

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While these latter photographs were beyond the collecting parameters of our own institution, Donna Victor found a great home for them at the Miami Beach City Hall Archive, which is preparing a new digital catalog and exhibitions designed to celebrate the city’s hundred year anniversary this coming March.

 
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