Visual History of Nations. WITH: Air Mail of the World

Arthur SZYK

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SZYK, Arthur. [Visual History of Nations]. WITH: [Air Mail of the World]. Winnipeg, Canada: Kasimir Bileski (New York: Herman Jaffe), 1945-49. Ten pieces. Small quarto (10 by 11-1/2 inches), ten loose sheets of heavy wove stock.

Extraordinary set of nine heliochrome lithographs by anti-Nazi caricaturist Arthur Szyk, commemorating the member countries of the United Nations (the one for the United States is signed by Szyk), together with a tenth lithograph documenting the history of air mail.

“Those who care for exotic coloring combined with the medieval miniaturist’s precision of detail could not but be interested in Szyk’s work” (Thomas MacGreevy). Polish-born Arthur Szyk developed a new and different approach from the Medieval style of illumination that he admired, creating caricatures that combined the precise detail and fine craftsmanship of the miniaturist with the barbed satire of political commentary. At the time of the 1939 German invasion of Poland, Syzk was dispatched to New York City, where he was to assume the role of unofficial propagandist for the Allied powers, contributing anti-Nazi caricatures to major U.S. newspapers. Sometimes called “The United Nations Series,” this wonderful suite of patriotic prints was commissioned in 1945 by Canadian philatelist and dealer Kasimir Bileski, who planned to use them as section pages for a novel limited edition of stamp albums. In addition to the beautifully calligraphed names of member countries, these striking chromolithographic prints depict symbolic national figures in their decorative borders. Bileski commissioned approximately 60 paintings from Szyk, but only nine countries were produced (plus Air Mail of the World) before the artist’s untimely death in 1951. “First Edition” stamped on the verso of six prints.

With marginal holes stamped along margin of a few sheets, probably as a preliminary to binding. Fine condition.

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