MoMA 1st International American Art Lithographic Exhibition Poster, Atelier Mourlot, 1938
Framed lithographic exhibition poster of the New York's Daily News building for MoMA's 1938 Trois Siècles D'Art aux Etats-Unis exhibition at Musée du Jeu de Paume in Paris.

MoMA 1st International American Art Lithographic Exhibition Poster, Atelier Mourlot, 1938

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Framed lithographic exhibition poster of the New York's Daily News building for the Museum of Modern Art's 1938 Trois Siècles D'Art aux Etats-Unis (Three Centuries of American Art) exhibition at Musée du Jeu de Paume in Paris. Printed in Paris by Atelier Mourlot. Custom framed (wood) using archival materials and UV glass. Unframed measurements: 28.5 in. H x 20.44 in. W; framed measurements: 33.25 X 25.19 in. W. 

Upon its printing, 820 posters were distributed across the city—four hundred posters to different metro stations, 120 posters on the doors of offices, and three hundred given to employees of the Compagnie Generale Transatlantique to be distributed on trains. This sale marks the first time a Three Centuries of American Art poster has been on the market and we have both extant posters created for the exhibition available for sale. Given the ephemeral nature of posters meant for advertising and display, most were destroyed. This example, without tears or stains is in Fine condition. 

In May 1938, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) curators installed the museum’s first international exhibition, Three Centuries of American Art, at the Musée du Jeu de Paume in Paris. The exhibition, assembled at the request of the French Government, included not only paintings and sculpture, but also drawings, photographs, prints, films, and architectural models––a total of over five hundred artworks. The exhibition operated as a representational proxy for the United States. promoting cultural exceptionalism and international cooperation with Europe through a shared history of art. 

MoMA defined American art for a French audience by creating the most comprehensive examination of American art outside of the United States to date, displaying artwork from 1609 though 1938. The display enabled two governments to build an artistic and political alliance at a time of international uncertainty and with World War II on the horizon, these artworks took on new meaning as the embodiment of the United States. By relabeling genres and creating a new periodization, Three Centuries provided Americans and Europeans with an opportunity to redefine themselves and their values as part of a global Community in 1938. These definitions remained integral to MoMA’s overlapping constructs of modernism and American art for the next thirty years, influencing the disciplinary codification of both. 

Publicity posters played a central role in MoMA’s efforts to build support for Three Centuries of American Art. Produced by French artists, lithographers, and publishers, these publicity vehicles tell us much about how the French interpreted the conflicted history of American art. The first of two lithographic posters was printed by well-known Parisian firm, Atelier Mourlot, famed for working with avant-garde artists including Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. The lithograph included an image of Raymond Hood’s Daily News Building, an Art Deco skyscraper built in New York City between 1929 and 1930. The building served as the home for the New York Daily News and the United Press International. In publicizing the exhibition, the poster simultaneously broadcast the power of the American press—a declaration resounded in the approximately four hundred articles produced by American journalists concerning this exhibition. The lithographic print juxtaposed an image in blue hues of the building set in contrast to a bright red background with white and black lettering. The use of bright blue and red reinforced the patriotic message of American industrialism as having international significance and American art created via American innovation.  

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