Make FDR’s Four Freedoms a Reality

While weekend postings are rare around these parts, today’s the 77th anniversary of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms Speech, the president’s 1941 State of the Union speech that gave hope to millions living in the shadow of World War II, inspired generations of civil rights leaders in the decades ahead and which spurred painter Norman Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” quadriptych, each of the four images illustrating life filled with free speech, free worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

With our country’s most sanctified institutions and beliefs under assault, with inequality running rampant and national stress levels through the roof, I’ve included the relevant text of that landmark speech after the jump. May Roosevelt’s word come true some day soon.

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Found in the LOC: 23 Great Edward Penfield Pics

Amid all those wonderful old bicycle adverts posted a few “Found in the LOCs” ago, there were a number of images by Edward Penfield, the granddaddy of American graphic design.

It seems unfair to his legacy not to offer his landmark images some more space. After all, Brooklyn-born Penfield popularized posters in the States, played a key role in establishing New Rochelle as an early arts colony  and was art director for Harper’s Weekly during a seminal period in American publishing

So here, in honor of Penfield and the path he forged for future illustrators, and in no particular order, are 23 of his illustrations, all sourced from the Library of Congress, which has a ton of other ones, too.

Some things that caught my eye: similarities between his style and two other artists, contemporary JC Leyendecker and current master Alex Katz; the self-possession of his women; and the sex appeal of his men.

(And for more Found in the LOC, click HERE.)

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Found in the LOC: 28 Designs By Art Deco Great Winold Reiss

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.)

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Arthur Singer, Bird Man

Birds were Arthur Singer’s bread and butter. For five decades, the New York-based artist provided avian illustrations for an array of books, magazines, U.S. postage stamps and even commemorative plates, creating a collection that rivaled his idol, John Audubon. But his images were so much more than spoonbills and grosbeaks, flamingos and finches; they were about his subjects’ struggles, their grit and determination. Giving them personalities and relatable perspectives previously unconsidered, Singer made his animal subjects remarkably human, remarkably relatable.  As David Wagner wrote earlier this year, “[Singer captured] what might be called the ‘inner consciousness’ of avian subjects…. [He] shows us what they must endure and negotiate as birds trying to survive.” And it all started in the unlikeliest of places, that urban jungle, New York City.

 Well, Washington Heights to be exact. That’s where young Singer spent hours studying and then depicting the neighborhood’s stray cats. Later he was enraptured by the animals at the Bronx Zoo, where he spent even more hours honing his eye to see beyond the fur and hides to the hearts and minds behinds the beasts. It was therefore no surprise to his family that Singer enrolled in Cooper Union, the famed arts school in the East Village.

Following his studies, which were punctuated by trips to Harlem to listen to and later befriend legendary figures Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington, Singer went to work in the ad business — and perhaps he would have stayed in that field had World War II not upended his and the rest of the globe’s existence. But even in a war involving millions, Singer was unique: part of the small, elite “Ghost Army,” his mission was to deploy inflatable tanks, fake radio calls and other deceptions that confused the Axis powers, providing cover for their allies to sneak across borders and front lines. His equally creative compatriots included Bill Blass, Ellsworth Kelly and fashion and music photographer Art Kane.

 

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Found in the LOC: 27 Gordon Parks Photos

(This is the first in what will be an ongoing series, “Found in the L.O.C.,” the Library of Congress.)

Chance played an instrumental role in artist Gordon Parks’ genre-spanning career. That’s both chance, as in “happenstance,” and chance, as in “taking a risk.” The former came early, and in fact catalyzed his career: The man who developed Parks’ film was impressed by the young shutterbug’s eye and suggested that he start taking photos for an upscale women’s fashion shop. That was 1937; Parks was a 25-year old black man. Applying for such a gig was the first occupational chance he took.

Up until then Parks, born dirt poor in Ft. Scott, Kansas and now living in St. Paul, had been working in bars and brothels, playing piano, singing and collecting used glasses to make ends meet. Once rent was made and food consumed, Parks spent what was left on Life and other glossy photo magazines, magazines he absorbed voraciously and that inspired him to save up for a camera. Soon he was snapping shots of life around him, i.e.: the somewhat seam side of night life, and that’s how he met  the developer who encouraged him to go pro. And Parks didn’t stop taking chances for another 68 years.

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