German-born artist Winold Reiss was enamored by America’s diversity when he arrived here in 1913, at the age of 27, and this interest shows in his work, including his intimate portraits of of Harlem Renaissance leaders and Blackfoot American Indians: vibrant, deco-infused images that eschewed caricature in favor of universal humanity. “To understand life, we cannot have prejudice,” Reiss said.
An optimist through and through, Reiss hoped his art could reshape society at large, leading people toward a more inclusive, more progressive mindset. Reiss believed that by picturing the honor, beauty, and dignity of all peoples, his art could help break down racial prejudices and testify to what Johann Wolfgang von Goethe called the ‘unity of all creation,’” explains the Reiss Partnership, stewards of his work. And it’s this approach that secured Reiss’ legacy as one of the greatest portraitists of the early twentieth century. He died in 1953.
But in addition to his humanistic portraits, the multi-talented creator also designed murals for hot spots like the Apollo Theater, the Hotel St. George, and a massive 14-panel series for Cincinnati’s Union Terminal, and he excelled at interior design, too: Reiss laid out all of New York’s hipper-than-hip Longchamps restaurants in the 1930s, as well as Max Lyman’s joint in Los Angeles.
Some of these art deco-laden conceptions are included below, as are a number of Reiss’ rarely seen wallpaper designs and even a few of his more sociopolitical pieces. They may not have changed the world, but they sure are purdy.
(And for more in the Found in the LOC series, click HERE.)
1. Drawing in Two Colors, 1915
2. Poster for charity for war widows and orphans, 1916
3. Sketch for Club Gallant, 1919
4. Steel Workers, 1920
5. Design for a door, possibly for the Hotel Alamac in New York, 1925
6. Floral wallpaper, 1925
7. Bird and floral wallpaper, 1925
8. Chicken wallpaper, 1925
9. Horse wallpaper, 1925
10. “Folk” cupboard, 1925
11. Floral design for support beam, 1930
12. Lamp, 1930
13. Proposed Fortune magazine cover, 1930
14. Madrillon Restaurant, Washington, D.C., 1930
15. Restaurant Crillon, at 15 East 48th Street, NYC, 1930
16. Foyer ceiling, unnamed nightclub, 1935
17. Unidentified restaurant or nightclub interior, 1935
18. Unidentified restaurant or nightclub interior, 1935
19. Color sketch for an abstract design, 1935
20. Three figures, 1935
21. Movie theater interior, 1935
22. Puck Theater proposal A, New York City, 1935
23. Puck Theater proposal B, New York City, 1935
24. World’s Fair theatre and concert hall proposal A, 1938
25. World’s Fair theatre and concert hall proposal C, 1938
26. St. James Bar, W. 181st St. and Broadway, New York, 1945
27. Proposed interior Mike Lyman’s Restaurant, 424 W. Sixth Str., Los Angeles, 1945
28. Mosaic front for new Longchamps, New York City, 1950