Feb 17, 2009 - Sale 2169

Sale 2169 - Lot 14

Price Realized: $ 1,920
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 3,000 - $ 5,000
Chicago World Fair.

Gouache over pencil on wove paper, circa 1933-40. 465x315 mm; 18 3/8x12 3/8 inches.

This unusual maquette design for an unknown or unpublished Chicago World's Fair poster is a fascinating discovery. The World's Fair of 1933, also known as "A Century of Progress International Exposition," celebrated the centennial of the city's founding. There are a number of strong stylistic characteristics that link this work to Aaron Douglas, but it lacks his sharp draftsmanship and modern sense of design. Aaron Douglas was one of the earliest modern American artists to look to ancient African and Egyptian art forms for inspiration. Only two African-American artists, Archibald Motley and Henry Ossawa Tanner, had works included in an art exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago held at the time of the fair.

Other Chicago African-American graphic artists such as William S. Carter and Charles C. Dawson were aware of Aaron Douglas's work. According to Victor Margolin, the exposition had an impact in the African-American art community. "While hardly a discursive space that welcomed and celebrated African-American contributions to American life, the exhibition did provide a modest opening for a design contribution - the Chicago Urban League's exhibit in the Social Science Pavilion, which was created by Charles Dawson. It also prompted a related project, the African and American Negro Exhibit which opened at the same time as the Century of Progress at the National Pythian Temple on the South Side." Robert Savon Pious's famous 1940 poster for the American Negro Exposition also shows the influence of Aaron Douglas. Regardless of the identity of this artist, this maquette is an extraordinary example of early African-American graphic design. Earle pp. 30, 51, 213-14; Margolin p. 2. Thanks to Victor Margolin and Daniel Schulman for their assistance in this research.