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

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.

~ by "The Chief" on November 8, 2014.

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