W.P.A. National Parks Posters
By 1938 the Federal Art Project or FAP employed artists in all 48 states with a budget of 1% of the WPA's total budget and was clearly the largest single employer of artists in the United States. Incidentally, this 1% is the model by which most cities today allocate funding for art projects within municipal buildings and is the basis for funding our foundation. Now, just when you thought you had all this memorized, in 1939 the Works Progress Administration kept its WPA acronym but changed its name to the Work Projects Administration for better public recognition!
The efforts of the FAP are mostly known today by the 4000 public murals that have survived on the walls of post offices and schools around the country. Perhaps least known are the posters by their very fragile nature. Between 1935 and 1943 over two million posters were printed by the WPA/FAP. These posters were based on 35,000 designs of which only 2,000 actual posters survive today. It is sad to realize that nearly 33,000 poster designs have been lost forever, representing 99.9% of our public poster art.
The early posters were individually hand painted in one or two colors and were produced in very limited editions, perhaps as few as 50. Poster subjects included art, theater, travel, education, health and safety. About one third of the artists producing these posters resided in New York City; a holdover from Mayor LaGuardia's "Fish Tuesday" poster project. Because of LaGuardia's model success, the WPA absorbed the mayor's poster project in 1935.
In 1934 Anthony Velonis joined the WPA/FAP and introduced the commercial technique of serigraph production. According to Posters of the WPA by Christopher DeNoon, in 1938 the WPA/FAP poster divisions had spread to at least eighteen states with the Chicago poster unit producing 1500 posters per day. With the serigraph commercial process, posters with up to eight or more colors could be efficiently produced.
With the advance of World War II and a concurrent rise of anti-communism, severe limitations were placed on the FAP, namely an annual salary cap of $1000 for artists. Another limitation was the "18 month rule" which limited artists to 18 months employment. This cut out 70% of all artists from the WPA. During the war the FAP was transferred to the Defense Department where the emphasis shifted to war posters. This move severely limited the artistic quality. By 1943 the FAP was disbanded entirely.
The National Parks Series were produced between 1938 beginning with the Grand Teton poster and ending with the Bandelier National Monument poster in 1941. The artists and actual dates of production are unknown. The original posters, distributed to local Chambers of Commerce, were produced for internal marketing only and not for sale.
Ranger Doug's Enterprises is the only source for faithful reproductions of WPA National Park serigraphed posters. Artists have hand-redrawn every screen from the original black and white photographs; a process that took over five years. From these 'new' screens, they recolored each poster using period artwork and palettes. Each of these posters are individually screened prints using Nasdar inks on 80# ivory vellum coverstock and made entirely in America. Many of these posters utilize the split fountain technique where two inks flow together resulting in a print that is totally unique. Some of the posters come in both original WPA colors, others use "Ranger Doug" colors. Original sizes used by the Federal Poster Project were kept for most posters. However, some posters differ by up to 1/2 inch. Original size was approximately 13 1/2" X 19"
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