DATA RE THE JAMES MONTGOMERY FLAGG
'I WANT YOU' 1917 POSTER
AND POSTERS GENERALLY
As with other similar pages on this site, this page was created NOT to be a definitive source of data about the splendid 'Flagg' poster, but rather a place to let visitors see the data that I found re that poster & other posters ~ data that would have overloaded & slowed down the loading of the Sliderpuzzle page available here. If it interests me, perhaps it might very well interest you also.
Visitors are, I trust familiar with the famous James Montgomery Flagg poster? If not click here.
James Montgomery Flagg was born on Jun. 18, 1877 in Pelham Manor, Westchester County, New York, the son of Elisha and Anne Elida Flagg. He started drawing at a very early age indeed & at the tender age of 12 sold his first work - to the prestigious children's magazine 'St. Nicholas'. Two years later he was a contributor to Life Magazine! From 1894 to 1898 he studied at the Art Students League in New York City, then the most important art school in the country with nearly 1,000 students. He went to London & Paris between the years of 1898 & 1900, studying at the Hubert Herkomer School in London & with Victor Marec in Paris, before returning to the U.S. As an artist, he had the ability to work rapidly & in any medium. His subjects were varied & even included some portraiture. He became, apparently, the official artist for N.Y. State during the first World War. His work was exhibited widely ~ at the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Academy of Design & abroad. The work that graces my Sliderpuzzle page was first published on Jul. 6, 1916 as the cover for 'Leslie's Weekly' with the title 'What Are You Doing for Preparedness'. It is best known, however, as the color lithograph poster, about 39 1/2" x 29 1/8" in size, issued for the U.S. Army in 1917. Literally millions of copies of the poster were distributed, perhaps as many as 5 million. And when the poster was reissued during World War II, the artist told President Franklin Delano Roosevelt that Flagg was his own model for 'Uncle Sam' in order to save the modelling fee. (But I now learn that that comment may have related to another poster (1942) entitled 'Jap... You're Next!'.) He created no less that 46 posters for the U.S. Government during the World War I period. The inspiration for the work would seem to have originated with Alfred Leete's WW1 recruitment poster of Lord Kitchener, published in London, England, in 1914. Visitors can see it below!
He would appear to have been very self assured & cocky, a Bohemian in his lifestyle & amazingly prolific. His work was published regularly in Life Magazine, Judge, Harper's Weekly & elsewhere, & he illustrated a small library of books written by others. His own first book was published in 1900. Almost 50 years later, in 1946, he published an autobiography with the the title 'Roses and Buckshot'. I learned relatively little of his personal life on the WWW sites I visited, except that he married his first wife in 1899 (she died in 1923) & he remarried in 1925. And he had a daughter. (I now learn that his first wife was Nellie McCormick & his second wife was Dorothy Virginia Wadman who had been his model. Dorothy, alas, suffered a severe psychiatric breakdown soon after Faith, their daughter was born in 1925, when the artist was 48 years old.)
Some limited sources to his work can be found on artcyclopedia & some interesting biographical material can be found here. You can buy art reproductions of the artist's work at a great many sites too numerous to mention. The AskArt site told me, when this page was first created, that the highest auction price established for a James Flagg work was on Mar. 15, 1975 but I do not know the sale price. But there are many many more examples of his work available for WWW viewing including some prints available here. You can buy the artist's autograph on a number of sites too, though most of the images I saw seem not to be his normal autograph but rather how he signed his work. He suffered two heart attacks in his later years & his eyes failed him as a result. He died in New York City on May 27, 1960 ~ his gravesite is in Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx County, New York, can be seen here.
What do you need to be an artist? In the artist's own words - 'First you have a hell of a lot of talent, then... experience [...knowledge and taste] then you have understanding, intuition, imagination, craftsmanship, red blood, philosophy, a fine canvas, the best paints and someone or something that demands your entire concentration.' (from 'Roses and Buckshot', Flagg's autobiography).
And Uncle Sam? It would seem that the character 'Uncle Sam' was named after Samuel Wilson (1766-1854), a business man in the slaughtering & meat packing trade, who supplied the Army with meat during the war of 1812. He was said to have been a man of great fairness, reliability & honesty & was devoted to his country. He was born in Arlington, Massachusetts on Sep. 13, 1766, grew up in Mason, New Hampshire, but lived most of his life in Troy, New York. Wilson did not dress with a white goatee & star-spangled suit! That is the invention of artists & cartoonists. Wilson was, apparently, clean-shaven. His grave is in Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, New York.
And here is a composite image of posters of the WWI period. The left poster is another fine work by James Montgomery Flagg, in the centre is the dramatic Alfred Leete Lord Kitchener 1914 recruitment poster published in London in 1914, & the right image is a delightful poster by Howard Chandler Christy. Enjoy!
And another thumbnail composite image that I hope will be of interest. Top Row On the left is the artist in 1915, photographed by Arnold Genthe. 'Uncle Sam' as man of the century is self explanatory, from the Dec. 27, 1999 issue of the magazine. The artist in 1917 with his brilliant poster. Another 'Flagg' poster from the WWI period (I cannot presently relocate where I found it in its original large size). And most interesting of all, at least to me, a U.S. Navy presentation in 1977 to Mrs. E. Leroy Finch of Port Washington, N.Y. Mrs Finch was the original model for the 'Gee I wish I were a Man' Howard Chandler Christy poster, that you can see immediately above the thumbnail. Isn't that interesting! And Bottom Row Two U.S. postage stamps, (here was one of them) the artist's 1947 autograph from The Argosy Bookstore which specialises in such items, a caricature of the artist, & the WWII reissue of the famous poster.
And more poster links you would enjoy! Many pages of most interesting Red Cross posters on Shirley Power's site (Shirley describes herself as the unofficial historian of the American Red Cross). And through this page you can view some fine early railway posters from the U.K.
To the "Sliderpuzzle" image page 'I Want You'.