1920: the noble spirit of Edward Gorey descends over a Soviet library

“Read one. It is your human responsibility.”

Russian Revolutionary Era Propaganda Posters, Harold M. Fleming Papers, Manuscripts and Archives Division, New York Public Library, https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47da-401e-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99. Artist: S. Ivanov. Published 1920. Photoshopped.


Under the Trump administration, librarians will get the respect they deserve

Russian Revolutionary Era Propaganda Posters, Harold M. Fleming Papers, Manuscripts and Archives Division, New York Public Library, https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47da-4027-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99. Artist: N. Pomansky. Published 1919. Photoshopped.

The headline reads, “Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic. Workers of the world, unite. Day of Soviet Propaganda.” The caption reads, “Knowledge for all!” The four books behind the librarian’s peasant-booted right heel are titled History of Bondage (or History of Serfdom), Socialism, Capital, and Class Conflict, and the book behind his left elbow is titled History. The names on the pediments of the buildings are University, Academy, and Library.

Peach with shoulder pads

But no, she isn’t a teacher. The large imperative painted on the foundation of her blocky columnar image translates as “Serve the people!” and the title of the document in her hand is “Deputy’s Report.”

American reader, you probably had two reasons for your vocational mistake. The obvious one was the image’s heavy didactic freight: its books, its colored pencil, its wall poster in simple educational colors. A more specifically American reason may have to do with the woman’s peach-tinted blouse and mannish little bow tie. It evokes apple-for-the-disciplinarian motifs from folk memory. And of course this disciplinarian is a woman, like most American teachers in 1950, when this poster was published.

But in Russian the peach is heavily overlaid with gray. In the gray, shoulder pads are dominant. It is only down beneath the thick layer pad that the peach-tinted body gestures toward something aspirational off to the right. In another art domain, that unseen ideal could conceivably be a body consisting only of flesh or an image consisting only of cloth covered by paint. The peach-colored Russian woman was painted long after Duchamp’s French woman descended her staircase. But unlike Duchamp’s lithe nude, this gray-swaddled body fills the image from side to side, hugely. Crushed to the margin, nothing unpadded could survive that mass. Its report will be an onslaught. Outside the image frame, the unseen idea of an image consisting only of form will shrivel and vanish. Its unseenness will take on the final trait of inconceivability.

Source: http://thesovietbroadcast.tumblr.com/post/156628250604/1950-serve-the-people. Photoshopped.


Transport VI: song with herms

Source: the opera singer Geraldine Farrar performing at a Liberty Bond rally in New York during World War I. George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress, http://loc.gov/pictures/resource/ggbain.26652/. Photoshopped.

Estampe XXII: war information

Source: Fenno Jacobs, “Amusement Park,” part of a suite of photographs taken between May 23 and May 30, 1942, for the U.S. Office of War Information. The suite is collectively titled “Southington, Connecticut. An American town and its way of life.” Farm Security Administration / Office of War Information black and white negatives, Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/item/owi2001038690/PP/. Photoshopped.

Poetry against propaganda: somebody’s mother considers popping the question

Source of the photoshopped image at the foot of the page: “Helen Rook,” George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ggb2005024344/. Helen Rook, on the right, was a Broadway actress of the 19-teens. In the New York Evening World, May 2, 1918, p. 7, the Bloomingdale’s advertisement promised that she (“Lieut. Helen Rook of the Camp Recreation Corps”) would sing at a white sale. Lieutenant Helen was also on hand the next month when (New-York Tribune, June 3, 1918, p. 6; Historic American Newspaper Collection, Library of Congress) a shipload of Australian officers landed in New York:

New-York Tribune 6.3.18, p6 cutA

At the foot of the page, a band of patriotic milk dealers added:

But in spite of the imperative “End!,” Miss Rook still remains available after hours. Touch your keyboard for her and she will come back to unfailing life. See: