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July 24, 2002
American Beauties Will Be Featured In Swann Gallery Exhibition
An exhibition titled "American Beauties: Drawings from the Golden Age of Illustration" features original drawings of iconic feminine beauty by gifted American artists, will open in the Swann Gallery of Caricature and Cartoon in the Library's Thomas Jefferson Building, June 27, and run through September 28. The exhibition highlights seventeen original drawings selected from outstanding recent acquisitions that will be supplemented with premier examples of graphic art in the Library's Cabinet of American Illustration and the Swann Collection of Caricature and Cartoon, and two rare bound illustrated volumes
Charles Dana Gibson (1867-1944), Coles Phillips (1880-1927), Wladyslaw Benda (1873- 1948), Nell Brinkley (1886-1944), John Held, Jr. (1888-1958) and other artists fashioned arresting, gorgeous icons of womanhood during America's "golden age of illustration"(1880- 1920s) that mirrored changing standards of beauty. More profoundly, however, these images highlighted transformations in women's roles in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in America. This popular art represents more than an array of pretty faces. During what historians call the era of the "New Woman," increasing numbers of women pursued higher education, romance, marriage, leisure activities, and a sense of individuality with greater independence.
The "Gibson Girl" first appeared in Life in the 1890s and rapidly set a standard for feminine beauty that endured for two decades. A master in pen and ink, Gibson portrayed his tall, narrow-waisted ideal as an equal, multi-faceted companion to man and highlighted her interests and talents. Coles Phillips' full-figured beauty typically blended into backgrounds of colorful designs published on the covers of Life and Good Housekeeping. His "Fadeaway Girl," the "Benda Girl," "Brinkley Girl," and related ideals emerged during illustration's golden age. The introduction of modern European and American art into an increasingly urban American society in the 1910s strongly influenced emerging artists such as Ethel Plummer (1888-1936) and Nell Brinkley who depicted new, slender, confident types of iconic beauties. John Held, Jr.'s short haired, flirtatious flapper defined in lively outlines departed radically from Gibson's calm, long- haired ideal. Russell Patterson(1893-1977), Georges Lepape 1887-1971), and Wladyslaw Benda incorporated elements of glamour and current fashion into their compelling visions of beauty in the late 1910s-1920s. Images from magazines' covers, short story illustrations, and advertisements exerted widespread influence, for readers sought not only entertainment and enlightenment from these visual sources, but also regarded them as examples to be admired and imitated.
An illustrated brochure printed in color with full checklist and brief essays, will be available to visitors.
The exhibition and accompanying brochure are funded by the generous support of the Caroline and Erwin Swann Memorial Fund for Caricature and Cartoon. The Swann Gallery showcases the collections of the Library of Congress in rotating exhibitions and promotes the ongoing Swann Foundation program in the study of cartoon, caricature and illustration, while also offering a provocative and informative selection of works by past masters. New York advertising executive Erwin Swann (1906-1973) assembled an extraordinarily diverse collection of nearly two thousand works of cartoon art representing four hundred artists and spanning two centuries. He developed the collection specifically to promote the preservation and connoisseurship of original cartoon and illustration drawings. Among the collection's highlights are sketches by such European masters as Guillaume Chevalier Gavarni and Richard Doyle, works by celebrated American illustrators including John Held, Jr., and Ralph Barton, American newspaper cartoon strip works by such pioneering cartoonists as Richard F. Outcault and Winsor McCay, and contemporary cartoons and illustrations by renowned artists, including Edward Sorel, Anita Siegel, Jean-Claude Suarez, Andre Francois, and Eugene Mihaesco.
More information on this exhibition as well as the Library of Congress' print and drawing collections is available through the Swann Foundation's Web site: http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/swann/swannhome.html.
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