Weaponized Wit: WWI Lampoons of Kaiser Wilhelm

•September 4, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Last spring semester, I taught an undergraduate history class at Florida International University on the topic of the First World War as depicted in film and interpreted by historians. Three of the students in the course, Christopher Stotts, Stephanie Diaz, and Ayme Cameron, opted to work on a library installation for their final project. The result of their selection, research, and interpretive and descriptive label writing came to fruition last month as the art handlers installed the works and we opened the show Wit as Weapon: Satire and the Great War.

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This installation includes a few clips from such First World War propaganda films as Charlie Chaplin’s The Bond (1918) and Shoulder Arms (1918), the latter humorously depicting life in the trenches.

It also includes short clips from My Four Years in Germany (1918), a film based on the memoirs of the American ambassador to Germany, and from Yankee Doodle in Berlin (1919), a satire starring the famous cross-dresser Bothwell Browne as a Mata Hari-like spy sent to seduce the Kaiser and steal his war plans.

The pièce de résistance of the installation is Ye Berlyn Tapestrie, a satire inspired by the medieval Bayeux Tapestry, which recorded episodes in the invasion of England by William the Conqueror in 1066.

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Ye Berlyn Tapestrie closely follows the tapestry it parodies, substituting German war atrocities in Kaiser Wilhelm’s invasion of Flanders, pictured by John Hassall (1868–1948) and published in London in 1915 by “Ye Studio Offices.”

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Ye Berlyn Tapestrie required the creation of a new wall case designed especially to display the piece, which folds out accordion-style to a length of 196 inches. We are grateful for the support of Wolfsonian board member Henry Hacker, who not only donated 225 posters from the First World War to The Wolfsonian in 2010, but has been providing funds to support our library installations, including the new case designed especially for this lengthy satire.

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The installation also includes a unique drawing by Louis Raemaekers (Dutch, 1869–1956) picturing Kaiser Wilhem II as a spider on a web

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. promised gift

Raemaeker was a Dutch cartoonist so outraged by the German invasion and occupation of Belgium that despite his own country’s neutrality, he published such scathing satires of German atrocities that the Military Command put a price on his head, prompting him to move to England to carry on with his campaign. Raemaekers’ cartoons were so popular that he made a tour of the United States once they entered the war, and his images were picked up by hundreds of newspapers with circulations in the millions. Many of his illustrations were reproduced as postcards and even as cigarette collecting cards.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, purchase

Once the installation opened, the student curators and the public were invited to a reception to see the finished product, and to peruse a display in the main library reading room of other satirical works dating from the Great War.

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FIU student curator, Christopher Stotts

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The library holds a significant collection of children’s books, games, puzzles, and postcards published during the Great War. While Wit as Weapon included works that lampooned various leaders and their armies, the majority of the items targeted the German Kaiser Wilhelm II.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, gift of Pamela K. Harer

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. promised gift

The satires, often published as picture books for children and adults, express outrage over his invasion and occupation of neutral Belgium, and the atrocities committed by his armies against civilians on land and by his U-boat commanders on the high seas.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. promised gift

Many of the American propaganda works depict the Kaiser as in league with, or surpassing in inhumanity, Satan and his demons.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. promised gift

Another book selected by the student curators vilified the Italians for repudiating their alliance to the Central Powers and for instead joining the allies prompted by promises of the Austrian provinces of Trento and Trieste at the war’s end. In this children’s book Maledetto Katzelmacker, pictured on the cover as a pop-eyed bandito with a bloody dagger, conspires with a Frenchman, an Englishman, and a Russian to break into the house of Austria to steal a parrot named, appropriately enough, Trento-Trieste. A German and an Austrian soldier catch the burglars in the act, frighten off the others, and hang the Italian.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, gift of Pamela K. Harer

The Wolfsonian–FIU Library is a rich resource for materials on the Great War, including vintage propaganda postcards, sheet music covers, and numerous rare books.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, purchase

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, gifts of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

We welcome all of our local readers and those of you planning a visit to Miami to come to the museum to see the installation, on view through January 13, 2019.

Long Live the King: The Italian Liner, the Rex

•August 23, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Today’s post comes to you courtesy of Dr. Laurence Miller, former director of libraries at Florida International University, and, since his retirement, our most dedicated volunteer cataloger at The Wolfsonian–FIU. In 2008, Dr. Miller donated his extensive collection of post-Second World War cruise line and ocean liner ephemera to The Wolfsonian’s library, where it perfectly complemented Mitchell Wolfson, Jr.’s collection of prewar materials. Earlier this month, Maurizio Eliseo, an expert on the Rex, paid a visit to the museum and was introduced to our holdings by Dr. Miller and our curators. Here is Dr. Miller’s report:

Recently, the staff of The Wolfsonian were honored to receive a visit from Maurizio Eliseo, the well-known author of several notable books concerning famous Italian liners and the maritime tradition that they represent. Thanks to his efforts, the liner Rex may be the best-documented liner in the history of North Atlantic travel. The 51,062 gross ton liner, completed in the summer of 1931, won the coveted Blue Riband, the transatlantic speed record in 1933, and held it until 1935 when bested by the French Line’s Normandie.

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The WolfsonianFIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Maurizio’s books each provide nearly 300 pages of documentation and contain virtually every known photographic illustration of the Rex. A forthcoming third volume on the vessel will be translated into English and accessible to most liner enthusiasts.

The highlight of Mr. Eliseo’s visit came during his visit to the library, where he had the opportunity to peruse two of the largest books in the collection. Both of the oversized tomes include detailed drawings of the décor and fittings, and specifications of materials and finishes to be used in the design of the interiors and furnishings of the second and third-class public areas and staterooms of the Rex.

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The WolfsonianFIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The WolfsonianFIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The Rex’s aristocratic profile commanded respect and it was as imposing in external appearance as it was beautiful in its interiors.

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The WolfsonianFIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Many of the brochures, deck plans, menus, and other ephemera in The Wolfsonian’s library collection focus more on the first-class accommodations aboard the Rex. 

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The WolfsonianFIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

While photographic images capture the reality of the ship, artists’ renderings prepared for advertisements published by the Italian Line during the Fascist era tended to exaggerate the size and scale of public rooms and decks.

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The WolfsonianFIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The illustrated brochures are useful, however, in providing an idea of the colors used and of the general elegance of Italian interior ship design in this period. The brochures focusing on first-class public areas also depict the formal dress and attire of the era. Adjusted for inflation, first-class fares for the Rex are comparable to first and business-class fares today, making these accommodations the exclusive preserve of the elite. With the divisions between classes of accommodation strictly enforced on the Mediterranean route, affluent passengers could expect to be surrounded by “the better sort.” The experience for first-class passengers aboard Rex was akin to being a temporary resident in a palace.

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The WolfsonianFIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

If some passengers loved the majestic feel of sailing aboard the Rex, others preferred the more modern interiors of the Conte di Savoia, with its elegant, innovative designs by Gustavo Pulitzer.

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The WolfsonianFIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The Conte di Savoia’s first-class smoking room probably provided the inspiration for the ballroom on board the Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2. The writer was asked to choose a few interior illustrations that he thought worth replicating in the modern liner, and took an illustration of this space to the Ft. Lauderdale offices of those working on interiors for the new Cunard ship. Working within the strictures of current fire safety regulations—which limit the longitudinal size of interior spaces—the designers tried to capture the elegance of an earlier era of Atlantic travel. Touches of the Normandie can also be identified aboard QM2.

The Wolfsonian has a particularly fine collection of post-Second World War Costa and Sitmar brochures in the Laurence Miller Collection that Mr. Eliseo also had a chance to examine.

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The WolfsonianFIU, Laurence Miller Collection

My first ocean-going voyage took place in 1957 on board Sitmar’s Castel Felice, a student and emigrant ship, which sailed from Montreal to New York in four days for the very reasonable rate of $55.

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The WolfsonianFIU, Laurence Miller Collection

Mr. Eliseo wrote an excellent history of the company, The Sitmar Liners and the V Ships, published by Carmania Press in 1998, in the wake of another beautiful book about the Costa Liners published the previous year and co-authored by Paolo Piccine.

 

 

Through a Glass Darkly: Colonial Views of Africa

•July 26, 2018 • Leave a Comment

On the last Saturday of June, two dozen Mandela Washington Young African Leader fellowship recipients came to The Wolfsonian–Florida International University for a guided tour of the galleries and a presentation of primary source materials conducted by associate librarian Dr. Nicolae Harsanyi in our rare book and special collections library. The group included persons from nineteen African nations including: Ethiopia, Cameroon, the United Republic of Tanzania, Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Malawi, Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burkina Faso, Niger, Namibia, Guinea, Liberia, Madagascar, and Zambia.

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The Wolfsonian’s collection focuses primarily on the period 1850 to 1950, a time when much of the African continent was under European hegemonic control. Consequently, most of our holdings of Africa and Africans present the regions and peoples through the distorted prism and perspective of colonialism and tourism. The visitors had the opportunity to see how European “explorers” and imperialists viewed the continent and represented it in colonial expositions.

The Wolfsonian possesses considerable propaganda relating to Italian and German colonial ventures in Africa. The Italian colonization of Eritrea and Ethiopia are well documented in the library collection, with numerous rare books, periodicals, and ephemera dealing with the First (1895–1896) and Second (1935–1939) Italo-Ethiopian wars.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, purchase

Most of the materials laid out for our guests were produced by the Italian Fascist regime to “educate” the population about the region, to justify the invasion in 1935, and to promote patriotic pride in the establishment of the Italian Empire.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, purchase

Aside from overtly “heroic” and “romanticized” depictions of Italians overcoming retreating Ethiopian warriors, most of the publications designed for home consumption tended to focus on women and children to make light of combat and to insinuate that most of the native people welcomed Italian intervention and colonial rule.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gifts of Steve Heller

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, purchase

The library does have some anti-Italian propaganda related to the Second Italo-Ethiopian war as well, including a number of issues of Akbaba, a Turkish publication with covers highly critical of Mussolini and the Italian invasion.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. promised gift

During the first decade of the twentieth century, Carl Weller published a portfolio of 48 color photographic illustrations of Germany’s colonial possessions in Africa.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

After coming to power in 1933, Adolf Hitler and the National Socialists began publishing a flurry of books and pamphlets designed to create nostalgia for and indignation over the African colonies lost by Germany after the First World War. The Kraft durch Freude (or, “Strength through Joy”) leisure program was established by the Nazis as a means of popularizing their National Socialist agenda and elevating the German government to become the largest tourism operator in the world. The KdF provided class-free, subsidized cruises for Germans as a means of stimulating the economy, promoting German-flag shipping, and encouraging trips, especially to former colonies in Africa.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Other European colonial powers also promoted travel to their respective colonies in Africa.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Laurence Miller Collection

While touring the galleries, the visitors had the opportunity to see art objects such as La Barre à Mine (Mining Bar), a statue created by Arthur Dupagne for the Belgian Congo Pavilion at the 1937 Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques, in Paris. While the painted plaster statue depicts a well-proportioned, muscular African male using a crowbar to break rock, it implies that Belgians would have to supply the brain power.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Printed materials from various world’s fairs and colonial expositions in Europe demonstrate how even architecture was used for propaganda purposes. Parisian architects erected African vernacular structures as pavilions, giving them a modern twist.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. loan

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. promised gift

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, purchased with funds donated by Vicki Gold Levi

Postcards and children’s coloring books were often distributed at expositions to “educate” and excite interest in African colonies among adult and younger fair visitors.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. promised gift

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, purchase

At the 1935 international exposition in Belgium, architectural planners deliberately sited and juxtaposed impressive modernist structures next to simple grass and palm thatch huts and “human zoos” to remind visitors of the contrast between “civilized” and “savage” peoples.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The interiors of these colonial pavilions reinforced the message of the exteriors with displays that implied that educational, religious, and humanitarian missions outweighed economic motives.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

In spite of the obvious biases and ethnocentricities inherent in the European-produced material about Africa, they are not without historical value. The reader can read diaries, journals, and peruse collecting cards as well as sketch and scrapbooks to catch a glimpse of “authentic” African dress and customs in the artwork and photographs that grace their pages.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, purchase

 

 

Graphic Art Selling Revolution, Jewelry, and War

•June 27, 2018 • 1 Comment

Although the Wolfsonian librarians have been extraordinarily busy this summer processing, accessioning, and cataloging a flood of new acquisitions and gifts, this last month we had only a small trickle of visitors. The first group included Charlotte Camille, Ludovic Houplain, and Maxime Vandenabeele, members of the H5 Group based in Paris who will be working with us on a project for the next Art Basel Miami Beach event in December. Dr. Harsanyi provided our guests with a personalize tour of the library installation he curated on early Soviet Constructivist art.

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As the group was particularly interested in graphic art, typography, and logo designs, we brought them into the main reading room to peruse a number of works pulled from our rare book and special collections holdings.

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The materials ranged from a 1908 deluxe reprinting of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Also Sprach Zarathustra [Thus spake Zarathustra] designed by Henry C. Van de Velde (1863–1957) with typeface designed by Georges Lemmen (1865–1957);

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

… type specimen booklets and broadsides, and guides and handbooks on the theory and practice of layout design;

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Steve Heller

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

…an ABC gem box with alphabetical designs by Kurt Hans Volk (1883–1962); typeface and photographs of exhibitions designed by Bauhaus artist, Herbert Bayer (1900–1985);

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

…unusual and celebrated books designed by Italian Futurists, Fortunato Depero (1892–1960), Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876–1944), Tullio Crali (1910–2000), and Raoul Cenisi (1912–1991);

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

 …brochures and plans for pictogram-like game pieces created by Ladislav Sutnar (1897–1976);

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Rad Sutnar

Later in the month, Dr. Harsanyi and I hosted eighteen visitors from Richline Group, a jewelry manufacturer dedicated to the establishment of an internationally recognized, vertically-integrated corporate branding, production, marketing, and distribution strategy throughout the jewelry supply chain.

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While The Wolfsonian’s library does not specialize in period jewelry, we did have a plethora of reference books on the subject, numerous rare catalogs highlighting the work of European and American gold and silversmiths, as well as a portfolio of plates advertising Art Deco jewelry.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The library also holds the Victory Gold Levi Collection, which, in addition to ephemeral paper and print materials documenting the U.S. propaganda campaign, also includes a number of “V for Victory” pins designed to be worn by patriotic women on the home front.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Victory Gold Levi Collection

Not unlike our earlier French visitors, others in this group were as interested in the logos, branding, photography, and display strategies used in various advertising industry publications also laid out on the tables for them to peruse.

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Finally, Wolfsonian director Tim Rodgers stopped by on a Saturday with Eric and Svetlana Silverman, their daughter, and their guest, Tamao Watanabe, the executive officer and director of Kyowa Kirin.

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The Silvermans were the lenders to Constructing Revolution, Bowdoin College Museum of Art’s Soviet propaganda poster exhibition now on display in our galleries.

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Our own resident expert on the Soviet Union, Dr. Nicolae Harsanyi, curated a library installation, Red and Black: Revolution in Soviet Propaganda Graphics. This installation complements Constructing Revolution by exploring how books, periodicals, and portfolio plates also experimented with Constructivist imagery and Soviet symbols to promote the Socialist revolution.

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As their guest was also interested in getting a sense of our Japanese holdings, I pulled out some highlights, including: vibrant color chromolithographic proofs for greeting cards published in the wake of the Russo-Japanese War;

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

…historical bindings from the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection;

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

… color prints depicting the Great Japan Earthquake of 1923;

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

… an accordion-style binding with pochoir (stencil work) modernist designs for perfume and cosmetics packaging (alas, not yet digitized); and Second World War-era Japanese propaganda prints designed to be fashioned into patriotic fans.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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We always feel privileged to be able to share our holdings with VIPs and groups visiting the museum, and to be able to provide our online fans with a digital sampling of the same.

Clear the Tables! French, Cuban, Native American, and Bakehouse Appetizers

•May 22, 2018 • Leave a Comment

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase

Over the course of the last couple of weeks, The WolfsonianFIU rare book and special collections library hosted a number of visits by very diverse groups, and selected rare tidbits for consumption at one of our public programming events. The librarians pulled, displayed, and then re-shelved materials for each group of visitors, only to repeat the procedure again and yet again. Today’s post provides our online visitors with a glimpse of some of the specialties laid out for our guests.

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The first set of visitors were interested in some of our French appetizers. Led by Florida International University Professor Maria Antonieta Garcia, twelve students from her French literature, theater, and cinema classes—(some accompanied by their significant others)—arrived to feast their eyes on a variety of items spread out across the main reading room tables.

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Some of the students had expressed in interested in sampling materials dealing with nineteenth century train travel, so we displayed some of those holdings.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Others in the group were interested in the depiction and evolution of women’s roles from a French perspective. The visitors were able to peruse such diverse items as advertising materials, First World War postcards, programs, and rare illustrated books covering such diverse themes as domestic work, regional dress, changing social mores, sexual objectification, and prostitution.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gifts of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Others at the table included a group interested in the French depictions of race and ethnicity, segregation and integration. Exhibition catalogs, original watercolors, and photographic portfolio plates from the Exposition coloniale internationale held in Paris 1931 provided some food for thought regarding the depiction—particularly of women—and treatment of indigenous peoples from France’s overseas empire in this era.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loans

A calendar advertising tobacco—(recently on display in one of our library installations)—also provided the group with something to consider regarding its visual message.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loan

A final group of students were interested in early French film, and had the opportunity to flip through a few rare items not yet digitized. After their departure I remembered some portfolio plates from the mid-1920s depicting the Art Deco façades of some Parisian cinemas.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Almost as soon as we cleared the tables, we had to lay out a spread for a group of Getty Council members.

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A couple dozen Getty VIP guests, led by conservator Rosa Lowinger, was planning to travel to Havana, and had stopped at our museum library to whet their appetite with a presentation of some items documenting the U.S.-Cuba tourist trade and cultural interaction during the first half of the twentieth century. As I am beginning to work on an installation about Cuban graphic designer, Conrado Walter Massaguer, and Rosa and I are currently collaborating on a book drawn from a promised gift of rare photographs and other ephemera collected by Vicki Gold Levi, the topic was fresh in our minds and we both talked at length on the subject.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection

I pointed out some items that documented the desire to eschew U.S. Prohibition as a driving force in drawing the first wave of wealthy North American tourists to the island in the 1920s, even as the Cuban government passed legislation promoting gambling and other attractions. The first wave of wealthy tourists arriving in Cuba is reflected in such Hollywood films as Havana Widows (1933) and Rumba (1935), and documented in an abundance of photos, periodicals, and memorabilia.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection & Promised Gifts

Even as free-flowing rum, carnival parades, and the sensual rumba dance enticed visitors, the group’s tour guide, Rosa Lowinger spoke about the American investors, builders, and architects who erected the luxurious hotels, casinos, country clubs, and other infrastructure designed to accommodate the rush of tourists.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Promised Gifts

Rosa also described the incredible nightlife that Havana offered visitors returning in the 1950s, and about the impact that Cuban music and dance had on the mainland, as Cuban rhythms were adopted and adapted to suit American preferences. Clubs like the San Souci, Montmartre, and Tropicana lured in visitors with gambling casinos, music, and shows.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection & Promised Gifts

As Cuban performers came to the U.S., the rumba, mambo, cha- cha- cha-, and Afro-Cuban jazz fusions became all the rage in Latin-themed dance halls, and forever changed the American music scene. The visitors had the opportunity to see some of the sheet music and sound recording covers and nightclub programs from the period.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Promised Gifts

No sooner than the Cuban materials were retired from the tables, the library hosted a behind the scenes library tour for six staff member of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Seminole Indian museum.

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I had not long ago put together a library installation documenting the use of Native American portraits and other imagery as a means of promoting tourism to the Grand Canyon, Glacier, and Everglades national parks, and we pulled some of these items and others focusing on the Seminoles for the group to peruse.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loan

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Promised Gifts

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift made by Ideal Gladstone, in memory of her husband, John

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

The library also holds some rare books produced during Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency. One oversized Work Projects Administration portfolio contains 18 silk screen color illustrated plates made by the Michigan Art and Craft Project in Detroit, reproducing movable masks and figures of the North Pacific coast Indians.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Another book, an illustrated English-Navajo reader designed for Indian children and published by the government to encourage Native Americans to learn English, but to also retain their own language and cultural traditions.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Once the items laid out for the museum professionals had been reshelved, new materials were pulled and set on the tables for a visit by Chris Horn and Emily Barber of the U.S. Forest Service.

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The visitors were most interested in some of the Civilian Conservation Corps items in our holdings, which including brochures, pictorial reviews, clippings, mimeographed CCC camp periodicals published by the enrollees, and even a forestry game board.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Christopher DeNoon Collection for the Study of New Deal Culture

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Promised Gifts

Putting together this post, I was reminded of the old Grape Nuts cereal commercial in which Euell Gibbons addresses the consumer with the line, “Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible.”

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This leads to our last table settings and visitors, appropriately enough, being a group of professionals from the Bakehouse Art Complex, a former industrial art deco era bakery refashioned into an institution offering art studio residencies and programs who came to see some Italian and Dutch treats spread out on our table.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

In addition to some of the rare batik bindings and typographic masterpieces in the collection, the group were able to preview some of the menus, recipe books, and other food-related items in our collection selected for an Into the Stacks event planned for later that week, including some recently donated menus from Louis Miano, David Almeida, and Gina Wouters not yet digitized.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

This last Friday marked Heather Cook’s last day as the Head of Education and Visitor Services at The Wolfsonian–FIU as she and her husband are relocating to Madison, Wisconsin. In her honor, a Wolfsonian Bake Off was organized, with staff members bringing in their special recipes.

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Later that same evening, Heather and Miami’s Crypt Cracker, Nathaniel Sandler, hosted an Into the Stacks Event with some sample for the public followed by a presentation and tour highlighting some of the stranger recipes and interesting kitchen gadgets to be found in our collection. Some high fiber diet recipes from the Depression years, for example, were written by the Kellogg Company to help Americans combat constipation, declared “public enemy No. 1” in one of their recipe books!

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

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And so we end this post with a bon voyage to Heather, and a bon appetite to our online visitors.

Red and Black: Revolution in Soviet Propaganda Graphics

•May 2, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Today’s post comes to you courtesy of associate librarian, Nicolae Harsanyi, our resident expert on Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Dr. Harsanyi put together an installation showcasing the red and black experimental Constructivist graphics deployed by the new Socialist state before Stalin imposed Socialist Realism as the only legitimate style. Here is his report:

On Saturday, May 5, curator Jon Mogul will conduct a tour for museum members of Constructing Revolution: Soviet Propaganda Posters from Between the World Wars, the most recent exhibition opened at The Wolfsonian–FIU. A complementary installation about Soviet graphics in the 1920s and early 1930s can be viewed in the library foyer.

Among the most significant movements to emerge in post-revolutionary Russia was Constructivism, which enlisted artists in the project of building a new classless society. The concept of “artist-constructor” defined the relationship between the artist’s work and society. Constructivists applied key principles of the artistic avant-garde—abstraction, the machine aesthetic, and mass production, for example—to the practical design of living and working environments and everyday objects. Since it reflected the social and political purposes of the government, Constructivism became emblematic of Soviet propaganda art. The agitational experience the artists gained through their involvement in the formulation and construction of a new socialist culture transpires in the graphic arts of the 1920s and early 1930s.

Published in 1925, Iskusstvo v bytu [Art in everyday life], a portfolio of 36 plates, provided instructions on how to “construct” various public environments (decorations for communal reading rooms, theater sets, signs for street demonstrations, clothing) as a way to engage directly with the people and convey the symbols defining the new Communist society. Well-known artists and designers, such as Vera Mukhina, Vladimit Akhmet’ev, Anton Lavinskii, and Nadezhda Lamonova, contributed to this portfolio.

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Artists were enlisted to illustrate publications dealing with official initiatives to decorate public spaces on various festive events. This booklet provided suggestions for ornamentation occasioned by the 10th anniversary of the October revolution:

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One of the prominent Constructivist artists was El Lissitzky [Lazar Markovich Lissitzky, 1890–1941].  He had the unusual distinction of being a key member of both the Russian and Western European avant-gardes. His designs incorporated basic geometrical figures and a limited color palette. Published in 1922, Pro dva kvadrata [About two squares] is a children’s book about a black square and a red square that fly to earth. For Lissitzky they symbolized the superiority of the new Soviet order (the red square) over the old (the black square).

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Lissitzky’s innovations in graphic and book design are strikingly visible in Dlia golosa [For the voice], a 1923 project which comprised 13 poems by Russian Futurist poet Mayakovsky. These poems were meant to be read aloud, and Lissitzky designed a thumb index with titles to help the reader locate a desired verse. He also designed title pages for each of the poems, constructing images by combining typefaces of various sizes printed in red and black.

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Stage sets and costume design remained principal domains the Constructivist artists strove to innovate. Adopting the angularity of Cubism, they reconfigured the stage along geometric designs. A good sense of this is conveyed by the illustrations included in the album published in 1929, Anatol’ Petryts’kyi : teatral’ni stroi [Anatol Petrytskyi : theater costume]:

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Satire was an important tool employed by the official propaganda that aimed to persuade the population to embrace the tenets of Bolshevik ideology. One of main targets of the party line was religion, associated with the old capitalist and tsarist order that needed to be uprooted, destroyed, and replaced by a new society based on the values derived from labor. Caricatures and cartoons by famous poster artists, like Dimitri Moor and Viktor Deni, were published in the satirical magazine Bezbozhnik u stanka [Atheist at the lathe].

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The drive to transform public spaces by way of new architectural projects or ideologically charged messages found echoes in the efforts of the Constructivists to fuse the technical and the artistic. Because of the scarcity of material means that characterized the Soviet economy in the 1920s, however, daring architectural designs survive today only as small-scale models or sketches. Vladimir Tatlin (1885–1953) is mainly known for his design of the Monument to the Third International. Projected as a structure of iron, glass, and steel, taller than the Eiffel Tower, it consisted of twin spirals within which three building blocks would revolve at different speeds (yearly, monthly, daily). The tower was never built.

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Iakov Chernikhov (1889–1951) was a Constructivist architect and graphic designer whose books situate him among the most innovative artists and craftsmen of his time. He elaborated various Constructivist situations that evolve from simple geometrical forms to complex architectural combinations, with the machine form as the embodiment of Constructivist principles in their purest form. He is also known as “the Russian Piranesi” for his fantasy drawings. The color plates at the back of the volume published in 1933, Arkhitekturnye fantazii : 101 kompozitsiia v kraskakh, 101 arkhitekturnaia miniatiura [Arhitectural fictions : 101 coloured prints, 101 architectural miniatures], capture the interplay of architecture, painting, and interior and graphic design. The seeds of his fantasies, however, never had a chance of germinate in the Soviet Union: Stalin’s repressive regime, which effectively put an end to Constructivism in the 1930s, favored a banal architecture based on monumental classicism and Socialist Realism.

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There will be a Library Salon on July 10th in which participants will be given supplementary explanations on the items included in the installation, and will also have the opportunity to view other library holdings that are relevant to the theme of Constructivism and which could not be exhibited because of limited exhibition space.  Please come and see the works discussed in this post, on view through August 5.

 

A Transatlantic Voyage to the “Ocean State”

•April 18, 2018 • Leave a Comment

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

At the generous behest of our board member, Thomas Ragan, Wolfsonian curator Silvia Barisione and I traveled to Providence, Rhode Island this past weekend to attend a lecture by ocean liner aficionado Stephen Lash, to tour and explore the collections of the Ship History Center in Warwick, and to enjoy an ocean liner-themed dinner event. Stepping off the plane and out of the terminal, we were greeted by snowflakes and freezing temperatures.

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If the outside air was more than chilly on this spring day in New England, our reception inside the Ship History Center could not have been more warm and cordial.

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Framed posters of Grace Line and other steamship companies line the walls of the museum, and there are impressive models of ships and liners, including one of Robert Fulton’s North River Steamboat, later christened the Clarmont.

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Fulton’s first commercially successful steamboat carried passengers from New York City 150 miles upstream to the state capital of Albany in 1807. The Wolfsonian–FIU museum has a number of artifacts documenting the 1909 Hudson-Fulton Celebrations.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gifts of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

Before the guest lecture scheduled for later that Friday evening, Silvia and I had the privilege of being guided through the library and archives and invited to open boxes and drawers to get a sense of the depth of the collection amassed over many decades by the contributions of SSHSA members and subscribers. Afterwards, we listened to an informative and entertaining presentation delivered by Stephen Lash on the art and design of the French Line.

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Mary Payne (Past president, SSHSA board), Stephen Lash, and Captain Dave Pickering (SSHSA board member)

Photograph courtesy of Aimee Bachari, Education Coordinator, Web Developer SSHSA

Many of his projected images highlighted the beautiful Art Deco interiors of the great French passenger ship, the Normandie, also documented in brochures, plans, and books in our own collection.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Thomas C. Ragan

On view in The Wolfsonian’s permanent galleries are two colored laquer, gold-leaf, and plaster bas relief panels designed by Jean Dunand. Titled, La Chasse [The Hunt], our pair are duplicates of those which adorned the men’s smoking room aboard the Normandie.

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of The Frederick and Patricia Supper Foundation, Palm Beach, FL

The following evening, we had the chance to mix and mingle with more than a hundred ocean liner aficionados, board members, VIP guests, archivists, curators, conservators, and other professionals from other maritime museums at the SSHSA’s Third Annual Ocean Liner Dinner and fundraising auction honoring the SS Normandie and the French Line.

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Appropriately enough, the dinner menu for the event was patterned on that served aboard the luxurious French Line’s Normandie, and SSHSA president Don Leavitt and executive director, Matthew Schulte provided a presentation using historic footage and images of the ship projected onto a large screen in the ballroom.

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In describing the inaugural transatlantic voyage of the ship whose prow and hull had been specially designed to minimize drag and a powerful steam quadruple-screw turbo-electric engine to maximize speed, the presenters updated regularly updated the guests with average speed estimates as the ship raced to successfully break the crossing record.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Dinner was followed by a live auction hosted by Lite Rock 105 radio personality Steve Donovan. Though outbid by the “high rollers” in the room, Silvia and I contentedly returned to Miami with fond memories, contacts information, our photographs and copies of the wonderful reproduction dinner menus and passenger lists produced for the event.

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Silvia & Frank Dinner Photo

Our thanks again to our gracious hosts at the Steamship Historical Society of America, the staff and board members of the Ship History Center, and to Thomas C. Ragan for encouraging this trip. We hope that the contacts we have made will result in further collaborations as we look toward organizing our own exhibition on ocean liner design.