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United States Appeal, Humanity Calls 1914-1918, 1917
In the 1900s Brangwyn began designing furniture, textiles, ceramics and other media. He was made an Official War artist in World War I, gaining repute through his posters, and was further recognised with an RA appointment (1919) and a knighthood (1941). Brangwyn was given a major retrospective exhibition at the Royal Academy, the first time this honour had been accorded to a living artist.
Unsigned original lithograph.
Printed by the Avenue Press in London WC for the US Navy Recruiting Bureau, 197.
Sponsored by the United States Recruiting Bureau.
Limited to a special edition of 30, costing 15 guineas in 1920.
The drawing for this is smudgy, rather than hard lined, with good chiarascuro. The figures are crammed together in a small space, evoking claustrophobia and fear. The composition is reminiscent of Gericault's The Raft of Medusa, with dark undertones of similar tragedy unfolding, whilst their saviour, the central character in white, is akin to a Symbolist version of Pierrot, not the buffoon but a fellow-sufferer who calls, not only for immediate help, but the aid of nations to prevent 'U-boat crimes'. Brangwyn wrote to Kitson in September 1917 that he was designing large posters for the 'American Government'.
The submarine in the background appears to have the lettering 'U40'on the side but the latter was only operational in WW2. It could possibly represent the Austro-Hungarian submarine SM U-4 but this only operated in the Mediterranean. Not being noted for historical accuracy, Brangwyn might have scrawled any number on the side.
By 1917 the German Navy had 105 U-boats and began unrestricted submarine warfare in February of that year. The sinking of seven American merchant ships on 21st March finally precipitated the USA into declaring war on 2nd April 1917. According to de Vere Cole, Lieutenant Henry Reuterdahl, who was considered America's foremost naval artist, had travelled extensively with the Navy and was their official artist during the war, recommended Brangwyn (his former teacher) to his friend Admiral William Sowden Sims. The latter was based in London and was given command over U.S Naval forces operating in Britain. - Libby Horner, Brangwyn at War!
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