Propaganda: 1905-1989

Our gallery is honored to feature, for March 12’s auction, over 40 remarkably rare pieces of historic political propaganda spanning almost the entirety of the 20th century. You’ll be able to perceive the arc of history: from pre-World War I social struggles, to the Bolshevik Revolution, into the Depression and World War II periods, onward into the struggles of the Cold War. We believe these pieces are exceptionally valuable as a history of causes, emotions, and manipulation: especially in this age of social media, instant messaging, “fake news” and a “post-truth” world.

Artist: James Montgomery Flagg 30 x 40 1/4 in./76. x 102.3 cm
Est: $7,000-$9,000

This poster was to become James Montgomery Flagg’s “greatest public triumph.” Using himself as the model, “his rendering was originally used on a Leslie’s Magazine cover in late 1916, and was quickly adopted by the Army when the war broke out. All told nearly 5 million were printed in both world wars”” (Theofiles, p. 9).

Artist: Albert Hahn
31 5/8 x 43 in./88.2 x 109.3 cm
Est: $1,200-$1,500

In late 19th-century Europe, old age meant poverty, almost invariably. By 1956, The Netherlands had secured an old-age state pension scheme to provide some security to anyone who’s lived or worked in the country. It took a fifty-year fight for the Dutch to win the latter state from the former. This poster was a bitterly powerful ally in that fight: a message compelling citizen organization ahead of the first major breakthrough, the Invalidity Act of 1913, which created a social-security provision for invalidity or early death of the breadwinner. Today, The Netherlands’ tripartite pension provisions, which include a mixture of private and public benefits, are among the most progressive in the developed world.

Artist: Vladimir Lebedev
32 5/8 x 46 1/4 in./83 x 117.3 cm
Est: $1,700-$2,000

In the early days of the Bolshevik Revolution, the Central Committee declared a need for an “art of propaganda.” The Russian Telegraph Agency (also called Rosta) took the initiative, and began developing a form of communication called Rosta Windows, which combined text, drawings, cartoons and caricatures into a single layered image – akin to politicizing the technique of a cathedral’s stained-glass window. Vladimir Lebedev, “invited to make posters for the Rosta Agency, worked in a bold and assertive form of caricature with an easily comprehended political purpose” (Russian and Soviet Artists, p. 254). This geometric cartoon of military in motion was initially used as a panel in one of these Rosta Windows, but was later resurrected to promote a production of “The Optimistic Tragedy” by Vsevolod Vishevskiy (1900-1955), staged by the Berliner Ensemble, a theater company established by Bertolt Brecht in East Berlin. “The Optimistic Tragedy,” Vishevskiy’s most successful play, was written to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Red Army. It concerns the life of a female commissar in the Red Fleet who is killed in battle during the early days of the Soviet regime.

Artist: Anonymous
25 3/4 x 38 in./65.5 x 96.7 cm
Est: $700-$900.

In 1983 the CIA began assisting the A Central American beggar child, hat in hand with a single gold coin in it, looks left with accusation: “Imperialism is hunger, poverty, unemployment.” Above, a silhouette of a man hovers over the southern and Midwestern United States, his outline filled with the words “Bank,” “Syndicate,” “Monopolies,” “Trusts.” The pendants draped around this banker’s silhouette correspond to symbols for precious metals (from left to right): copper, zinc, silver, strontium, gold, tungsten, lead and platinum – all critical elements for technological, military, and economic leverage. All of these elements fuse into a single powerful message that “Western imperialism” exploits the natural resources of nations while impoverishing their people.

Artist: Ferdinand Kruis
37 1/4 x 49 3/4 in./94.78 x 126.4 cm
Est: $1,700-$2,000

Kruis, who studied at the Vienna Academy, was a member of the Vienna Secession. In 1902 he founded a painting school in Vienna with Franz Hohenberger, which was forced to close in 1916 in the middle of the war. From 1915, he served as a war artist in the art group of the Imperial and Royal Press Quarter. This 1916 image served to promote an exhibition of war art at Vienna’s Kaisergarten, to stir up patriotic fervor against the Allies, who were pressing at the Battle of the Somme. That battle would incur 1.5 million casualties.

Live auction begins March 12, 2017 11 a.m. EDT
(remember to Spring Forward!)