Anna on Avery and Artzybasheff

This week’s blog post is written by our student worker Anna Karpinski, who has been helping us digitize tear sheets in our collection.

Working at the Modern Graphic History Library has been one of my best jobs to date. It’s rare to be able to find something so rewarding and so fun at such a young age, and I feel lucky to have stumbled upon this opportunity. As an art history nerd, being able to see advertisements that I’ve only learned about and artists that I’ve only written about was enough of an opportunity in itself. But what was really inspiring was learning about artists that perhaps I had skimmed over in my textbooks, or that I had never even heard of before.

Artzybasheff was one of the first of these artists who caught my eye. His work is so incredibly unique and so different from his contemporaries, and it remains timeless to me. There was an
astonishing attention to detail that I’ve always appreciated, and a whimsy that I found truly intriguing.

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Anti-Nazi poster from 1942

One of the things that stood out the most about him was that he didn’t always illustrate people or settings or products. He created mechanized characters with no gender but ample expression that told his story for him. He was impressive in that he still was able to render people, and somehow maintain his unique style throughout all of the subjects that he drew.

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Victor advertisement from 1943

Another artist that caught my eye was Ralph Avery. Unlike Artzybasheff, I wasn’t able to see his work in a variety of different folders as I sorted. His work was all concentrated in one folder, so
I got the pleasure of looking at it all at once, and it hit me hard how beautiful his style was. His work has a sort of lightness and effortlessness that really caught my eye and made me look again.

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Image from Christmas card, date unknown

His landscapes were done with such softness in palette and in rendering that it was unmistakably his work every time. His compositions also interested me, and made me want to continue
looking at each of his small postcards.

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Image from Christmas card, date unknown

There are so many more artists that I want to learn about and write about in my lifetime. Working at the Modern Graphic History has helped me in this discovery immensely. My work here scanning, sorting, sifting and organizing felt rewarding not only because I felt like I was doing something good for the arts, but also because I got to have so many moments of pure inspiration. Either when looking at an original Saturday Evening Post cover illustrated by Norman Rockwell, or when discovering a Time Magazine cover with a drawing by Artzybasheff, these experiences are ones I’ll never forget and that I’m happy I’ve had this summer.

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Saturday Evening Post August 9, 1919

About the author

Andrea Degener is the Visual Materials Processing Archivist in the department of Special Collections at Washington University Libraries.