WUSTL exhibitions open Modern Graphic History Library

The Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and the University Libraries’ Department of Special Collections will launch the new Modern Graphic History Library with a pair of exhibitions that opens Friday, Nov. 16.

“Tell Me the Time,” from the exhibition “Ephemeral Beauty: Al Parker and the American Women’s Magazine, 1940-1960.” Parker, a Washington University alumnus, was one of the most celebrated illustrators of his day. This gouache painting was originally published in the November 1946 issue of the Ladies’ Home Journal, accompanying a piece by Marie Fried Rodell. (From the collection of Kit and Donna Parker, the artist’s son and daughter-in-law.)

“Highlights from the Modern Graphic History Library” will open with a reception at 5:30 p.m. in Olin Library’s Ginkgo Reading Room & Grand Staircase Lobby. A reception for “Ephemeral Beauty: Al Parker and the American Women’s Magazine, 1940-1960,” will immediately follow at 7 p.m. in the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.

The Modern Graphic History Library is dedicated to acquiring and preserving distinguished works of modern illustration and pictorial graphic culture while also promoting sustained academic consideration of those materials. The collection includes artists’ working materials, sketches and finished artworks — from book, magazine and advertising illustration to graphic novels, comics, poster design, pictorial information design and animation.

The catalyst for establishing the Modern Graphic History Library was a substantial commitment, in 1999, of artwork and studio materials from the family of Al Parker, a St. Louis native and Washington University alumnus best known for his groundbreaking postwar illustrations for women’s magazines such as Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, McCall’s and Cosmopolitan.

Yet the Modern Graphic History Library also draws on a wealth of existing holdings, including strong collections of children’s literature, comics and pulps, periodical illustration, 19th- and 20th-century political illustration and materials relating to graphic design and the history of printing.

“Kit and Donna Parker were instrumental in developing the Modern Graphic History Library,” said Jeff Pike, the Jane Reuter Hitzeman and Herbert F. Hitzeman, Jr. professor of art and dean of the College of Art in the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts. “The Modern Graphic History Library is now poised to become an invaluable resource for scholars, students and practitioners — those who will find, within the beauty of this unique collection, thoughtful avenues of inquiry for scholarship and inspiration.”

Douglas Dowd, professor of visual communications in the Sam Fox School, drew extensively on university holdings for “Ephemeral Beauty,” which he organized with Stephanie Plunkett, curator at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., where the exhibition debuted last summer.

“Popular art delivers the ultra-now, the super-here,” Dowd noted in a brochure accompanying the “Highlights” exhibition. “Often, overexposure or simple datedness follows, and such works are consigned to the garage, literally and figuratively. But later, reconnected with lost contexts and seen afresh, they provide the frisson of frozen history.”

Anne Posega, head of special collections at the Olin Library, said, “We librarians and curators know that scholarship suffers when ephemeral pieces of visual culture are lost or discarded, as so often happens.

“The Modern Graphic History Library will preserve unique contributions to art and society by some of the most significant figures in graphic media, past and present. We believe this collection will engender opportunities for intellectual exchange, creative enterprise and education,” Posega said.

In addition to the exhibitions, the Modern Graphic History Library will sponsor a symposium titled “An Art of Aspiration: Periodical Illustration and American Visual Culture” from 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, in Steinberg Hall Auditorium.

The event will focus on illustration, cartoons, comics and other images that are not traditionally addressed by art history and require an interdisciplinary approach to appreciate their historical context.

Included will be panel discussions on “Anxious Significance: The Culture of Illustration,” and “Periodical Illustration and the Study of American Culture,” as well as talks by Dowd and Wayne Fields, Ph.D., the Lynne Cooper Harvey Distinguished Chair in English and director of the American Culture Studies Program, both in Arts & Sciences.

The panel discussion is free and open to the public but advance registration is required. To R.S.V.P., call Olin’s automated response line at 935-8003 or visit library.wustl.edu.

Both exhibitions are free and open to the public. “Highlights from the Modern Graphic History Library” will remain on view at Olin Library through Jan. 13. For more information about the library’s hours and the exhibition itself, call the Department of Special Collections at 935-5495.

“Ephemeral Beauty” will remain on view at Kemper through Jan. 28. The Kemper Art Museum is open from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Fridays; and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The museum is closed Tuesdays. For more information, call 935-4523 or visit kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu.