Poster References in the DeYoung’s current exhibition “Jewel City – Art from Panama Pacific International Exhibition”
November 17, 2015 § Leave a comment
It is always a treat to find references to the ubiquity of posters in paintings. Attending museum exhibits which focus on the past 150 years often include both advertising posters from the period as well as art with life on city streets as it’s subject. If the viewer is attuned to posters, they can be spotted in some of these paintings and photographs.
In the current show at the DeYoung, the obvious poster is the one advertising the fair itself. As is the case with most world’s fair posters, they artist won a poster competition and their design was selected by a committee to advertise the Fair.
The winning design was by Perham Nahl and features the son of Jupiter parting the earth to reveal San Francisco in the background. The poster is quite small- measuring 13 3/8″ x 24″ and the color palette is subtle.
The poster within a painting which really struck me though was “The Charge” by Andre Eduoard Devambez. This painting, which is on loan from the Musee D’Orsay is apparently the most famous work by the artist. It features a street scence in Montmarte- a conflict between demonstrators and police, and is painted with an unusual perspective- as if viewed by the painter from above the scene. I was struck by the fact that the street in the scene was dotted with poster kiosks on both sides of the street, and that they serve to punctuate the street. And then I realized the artist’s name was Devambez. Possibly this was a coincidence, but the last name is also that of one of the very famous poster printers, which we have catalogued on numerous occasions. The placard at the DeYoung mentions that Devambez’s family printed the catalogue of French art on view in the French Pavilion at the Exposition. So my hunch that this artist would be from the very same family who printed the legendary posters of Leonetto Cappiello among others grew stronger.
It turns out that the Devambez printing house was established long before the hey day of Cappiello. Eduoard Devambez was himself an artist, and his print house was highly respected for it’s work with engraving, copper plate etching, typography, lithography, calligraphy, book binding, stamping and won awards at world’s fairs. Devambez was awarded the prestigious work of printing presentation books, menus for visiting foreign monarchs and became the official engraver for the Royal family of Portugal.
It is Eduard Devambez’s son who created “The Charge” in 1902. While I was studying the painting at the DeYoung, a docent led tour came into the gallery, and we learned about how the paintings for the French Pavilion at the Pan Pacific made their harrowing journey to San Francisco.
Of course a worlds’s fair- like an Olympics- is planned for by its host city and by participants for years ahead of the actual event. The art slated for display at the French Pavilion had already been discussed, when war broke out on July 28, 1914.
Much of World War I was fought on the open ocean, so transporting goods across the Atlantic was tricky. Munitions and supplies were the priority, and those shipments were targets. France was eager to keep its word to display art at the Pan Pacific Exposition, and to show the superiority of their artists. This, coupled with the fact that many precious artworks in French museums were being crated up and hidden from possible theft, made sending the works oversea an even greater imperative.
So how was it done? The allies made use of what was called the Christmas Ship. This ship was packed with clothing, toys and food donated by American children and intended for British and Belgian children as a goodwill gesture. The ship was unloaded at a number of ports in Europe. Amid great secrecy, the Christmas Ship was loaded with precious works of art destined for the 1915 Pan Paciifc Worlds Fair in San Francisco. Because of the opening of the Panama Canal, the journey was shortened by 8,000 miles.
This blog post was written by Elizabeth Norris, principal of Vintage European Posters. Please visit the Vintage European Posters website www.vepca.com to view our extensive collection of original advertising posters.
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