Collectors seeking Americana in vintage posters



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La Belle et la bete, 1946. 61 1/2 inches by 91 inches. Courbet, Paris. Estimated at $3,000 to $4,000. Price realized, including buyer's premium: $4,320. Photos courtesy Swann Galleries.

NEW YORK — Swann Galleries’ annual summer auction of Vintage Posters, held Aug. 4, offered fine selections of summer resort and beach posters, World War I and II and other propaganda posters, and Mather Work Incentive posters. There were also posters advertising tourism to Bermuda;  ocean liner and airline posters; a run of Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Company posters; and some lovely Art Deco works.

The sale opened with posters from World War I and II and other propaganda pieces. In addition to well-known recruitment images by James Montgomery Flagg and Howard Chandler Christy, this section featured one of the rarest World War I Judaic posters, Alfred F. Burke’s Share / Jewish Relief Campaign, circa 1915, which brought $5,040.

Flagg’s Wake Up America Day, 1917 brought $8,400 against a presale estimate of $2,000 to $3,000, and Christy’s In Her Wheatless Kitchen, 1918, a rare large-format poster issued by the United States Food Administration urging Americans to cut back on their wheat consumption during the First World War gathered $2,640. Also by Christy is We the People, 1937, a poster commemorating the 150th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution, which brought $7,200. All prices realized include 20 percent buyer’s premium.

Always popular are the colorful and clever Mather Work Incentive posters, produced in Chicago in the late 1920s to boost employee productivity and safety. Willard Frederick Elmes’s A Leak in the Tank! (Stopping Leaks Protects Your Job), 1929, settled at $2,040.

Beach and summer resort images were in abundance, ranging from Adar Lanz’s Onival Sur Mer / Chemins de Fer de l’Est et du Nord, circa 1905 ($1,920) to an elegant poster for San Sebastian, 1956, that settled at $2,520.

Among advertisements for various forms of entertainment are Jean-Denis Malclès’ two-sheet poster for Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bète, Paris, 1946 ($4,320), and two for foreign showings of James Bond movies, Gösta Aberg’s Goldfinger, 1965 ($1,560); and Tutti Contro James Bond, for an Italian film festival, 1972, which brought $1,080, slightly above its presale estimate.

Rounding out the sale were several French Art Deco works, including a group of 12 double-sided pochoir plates from Paul Colin’s portfolio Le Tumulte Noir, 1927, which went to a new owner for $6,240.

An illustrated online catalog, along with prices realized, can be viewed at www.swanngalleries.com. ?



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As part of the conservation effort during the First World War, Americans, "in addition to meat and eggs ... were urged to cut back on wheat, the single most vital food item, and to eat corn and barley instead, which were in good supply." Howard Chandler Christy's 78 1/2 inch by 40 inch poster, titled "In Her Wheatless Kitchen," exemplifies the extent the public supported the war effort. The poster was released in 1918 by the Alpha Litho Co, New York.
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With a tip of the three-cornered hat to the story of Paul Revere, a patriotic young lady is running with a lantern in one hand and a flag in the other, to warn the populace of the impending conflagration of World War I. Through 1917, the Great War had been primarily a European affair. A distant, isolated America was physically and psychologically far removed from the fray. Yet the winds of war were not ignored by all: Before the United States officially entered the war, private groups of concerned citizens took it upon themselves to begin preparing America for the upcoming battle. Artist James Montgomery Flagg was responsible for two of these images. This, the rarer of the two and measuring 41 inches by 28 inches, is a departure from the artist's usual style and represents his "only attempt at modernity." It brought $8,400 against a presale estimate of $2,000 to $3,000 in Swann Auction Galleries' Aug. 4 poster auction.
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Alfred F. Burke's Share / Jewish Relief Campaign is an allegorical figure of America offering her bounty, a tray ladden with bread and fruits, to four desperate Jewish refugees dressed in tatters. In the background, the New York skyline, a symbol of the prosperous and secure New World, beneath an optimistic orange and yellow sky (itself reminiscent of a wheat field and thereby a further indication of how much America has to share). Price realized: $4,200, including buyer's premium.

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