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Lester Beall (1903-1969)
Rural Electrification Program
40 x 29 3/4 ins, 101 1/2 x 75 1/2 cm
Swann Galleries - New York
Sale 2414, Graphic Design, 10 May 2016, lot: 164
One of the greatest American posters of the 20th Century, Beall's optimistic, patriotic and progressive image is a monumental work whose aesthetic simplicity masks a complex design that reveals "the artist's distinctly American counterpart to European modernism" (Mechanical Age p. 174). In fact, in many ways this image can be seen as the American version of El Lissitsky's Russische Ausstellung (see Swann Modernist Poster Auction #2039, lot 77), with the boy and the girl gazing hopefully and happily into their future. "The image speaks for itself in this almost-textless photomontage, a brilliant combination of realism and abstraction. These are 'poster children' for the REA - happy beneficiaries of the program, in the present and the future . . . The flag motif serves several purposes. It signifies the overarching protection of the New Deal; the 'matched' white stripes and fence rails subtly reinforce the connection between America and the farm; and it provides further visual interest, as the band of blue below the stripes somehow still functions as sky." Beall 114, Mechanical Age pl. 58, Resnick 30, Modern Poster 186, MoMA 221.1937.