Paper Is Part of the Picture no. 15—Strathmore Artists’ Series (1923)
This is one in a series of blog posts accompanying Paper Is Part of the Picture: Strathmore Paper and the Evolution of American Graphic Design 1892–2017, an exhibition that I have curated at The Opalka Gallery of The Sage Colleges in Albany, New York. The exhibition runs from October 3 to December 15, 2017.
The third (and last) of the Strathmore Artists’ Series was mailed out in the first quarter of 1923. An advertisement in March announced “Four Treatises on ‘Paper Is Part of the Picture’.” But instead of sending out each ‘treatise’ monthly or over the span of several months, they were released as a set under the heading 4 Men & Strathmore: Carlton D. Ellinger, W.A. Dwiggins, R.F. Heinrich, Oswald Cooper. The envelope (see above) was designed by Cooper. Inside it was a portfolio designed by Dwiggins (see below) which, when opened out, displayed a medieval procession in an Italian town that functioned as a bookend to Cleland’s mailer in the second series (see Paper Is Part of the Picture no. 14). (Note how Dwiggins, like Cleland, skillfully worked a variant of the slogan “Paper Is Part of the Picture” into the illustration at the right.)
Dwiggins’ portfolio enclosed the four “treatises”: pen drawings by himself on Alexandra Book, lettering by Cooper on Blandford Book, a demonstration of color by Ellinger on Bay Path Book, and “the woodcut effect” by Heinrich on Old Stratford Book. His two drawings (both in ochre and blue) used the paper as sand (a woman walking on a beach) and snow (an alpine expedition), two ideas that had already been exploited in the 1921 “Paper Is Part of the Picture” advertisements.
Cooper’s contribution was a folded sheet with hand-lettered text that he undoubtedly wrote himself since its bears the hallmark of his oblique sense of humor. (The text and the “antique” look, with deliberately uneven baseline and archaic long s, is similar to several Christmas cards Cooper and his partner, Fred Bertsch, produced in the late 1910s.) The pseudo-Elizabethan text continued on the inside of the folded sheet:
With so fair a sheet to print upon, one hath, indeed, to mind his step, lest he make about his talk a too great fuss, laboring, mayhap, from cockcrow to candlelight but to find he hath covered so much of the paper as to subtract from its richness.…*
Buried in the convoluted syntax, is the admonition that a design should not take over the paper it is printed on; in other words, a restatement of the conclusion on the front to “let paper do most of the work.”
R.F. Heinrich heeded Cooper’s warning, leaving nearly half of the front of his folder blank to prove that “The woodcut effect is partly paper”. But, the interior text contends, the effect cannot be achieved on any paper—only on an antique one such as Strathmore Old Stratford, which was introduced in 1898 in response to the Arts & Crafts movement. With it the folder is “the perfect blending of the work of a modern master of the woodcut with the modern counterpart of the antique book papers of old.” Unlike the Dwiggins folder, the Heinrich one stressed the tactile aspects of paper.
It is difficult to figure out the difference between the folder by Carlton D. Ellinger, the last one in the quartet, and the one by Dwiggins. Ellinger’s drawing was promoted as an example of how to show off color with paper while Dwiggins’ was touted as a demonstration of pen-and-ink drawings. Ellinger used color for the background in his depiction of a cathedral silhouetted against a rich blue sky; Dwiggins used color for the subjects of his illustrations, the woman on the beach and the members of his mountain-climbing expedition. It is a subtle distinction that most recipients of the 4 Men & Strathmore mailer probably missed, but which did not diminish its impact.
While the slogan “Paper Is Part of the Picture” continued in use for decades after this, the Strathmore Artists’ Series came to an abrupt end with the mailing of the 4 Men & Strathmore portfolio. It was replaced in Strathmore’s promotional efforts by the creation of Strathmore Town, an even more ambitious idea.
Even though the Strathmore Artists’ Series ended in 1923, sone of the artwork created for it continued to be used by Strathmore in various promotional mailings throughout the 1920s. Furthermore, Dwiggins’ woman on a beach was used as clip-art by Strathmore’s customers.
*I have replaced the long s with a regular one in transcribing the text.