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Abstract linocut print depicting three figures with long necks and their heads in the clouds

Object | Accession Number: 2015.609.11

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    Abstract linocut print depicting three figures with long necks and their heads in the clouds

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    Brief Narrative
    Black and red linocut print by Harold Lehman depicting a surrealist image of three human bodies with elongated necks and their heads in a cloud. The image is a criticism of American isolationists who did not want to get involved in World War II. Lehman’s depiction implies they are looking up and ignoring what is happening around them. An award winning painter, muralist and sculptor, Harold Lehman was known for making political statements with his artwork. He was born and raised in New York City, but moved to Los Angeles as a teenager, attending the Otis Art Institute. While in L.A. he worked with Phil Guston, Jackson Pollock, D.A. Siqueiros, and Manuel Tolegain. In 1941 Harold moved back to New York and continued his career, working with the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) and the Federal Art Project, both New Deal programs to employ artists. He also worked with the Treasury department and Abbott Laboratories to create War Bond advertisements, pro-American propaganda, and anti-fascist pieces.
    creation:  1938
    creation: New York (N.Y.)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Lisa Lehman Trager
    on print, bottom right, printed, white : HL
    Artist: Harold Lehman
    Harold Lehman (1913-2006) was born in New York City, New York to Abraham and Rachel Lehman, immigrants from Europe who arrived in New York at the turn of the twentieth century. Early on, Harold’s father struggled to find consistent employment, working as a mailman and a vaudeville dancer. Later he found steady work as an insurance agent and then left the family and moved to California. His mother was a seamstress. Harold had a twin brother and was one of five children. Harold was part Jewish, and went through synagogue as a boy. The family lived in the West side of Brooklyn and then in the Bronx. In February 1930, Harold and his older brother Charlie moved to California to live with their father.

    In California, Harold enrolled at the Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles. There he formed lifelong friendships with future notable artists such as Phil Guston, Jackson Pollock, and Manuel Tolegain. Early in his art career, Harold worked primarily as a sculptor. He used plaster and clay as well as carving directly in stone. In 1931, after graduating from Manual Arts, Lehman won a citywide competition for a yearlong scholarship to the Otis Art Institute. In 1932, after leaving Otis, Harold focused on painting and began working with painter D.A. Siqueiros, joining his “Bloc of Painters,” a group of artists with socialist leanings. In 1933, Harold won second place in the Los Angeles Museum’s annual competition of painters and sculptors. In 1933 and 1934, Harold did work for the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) a New Deal program to employ artists.

    In 1935, Harold felt he had gone as far as he could in Los Angeles, and returned to New York City. There he painted murals for the Federal Art Project, another New Deal program created to employ artists, and sold paintings at exhibits and shows. During this time he continued working with Siqueiros and began experimenting with different types of paints, lacquers and application methods. In 1936 and 1937, Harold created paintings opposing the Fascists and the German and Italian intervention in the Spanish Civil War. In 1939, Harold painted a mural for the World’s Fair in New York. While working with Siqueiros, Harold also designed floats for several New York City parades promoting the Allied war effort and denouncing fascism. In the fall of 1941, Harold fell while painting a mural and broke both his arms. While recuperating, Harold was called up for service by the draft board. With the combination of his broken arms, his disinclination towards violence, his inability to take orders and his work as an artist for federal programs, he was able to get a deferral.

    In 1942, Harold moved from New York City to Woodstock, NY where he created several war paintings for the Section of Fine Arts and the Treasury Department. Around this time, Harold was approached by Arnold Blanch and Reeves Lewenthal, from the Associated American Artist Gallery. Through a partnership with Associated American Artists and the United States Treasury Department, Abbott Laboratories created a program to create advertisements and illustrations for its medical journal What’s New and for the United States Government’s War Department through their Schools-At-War program. They provided Harold with poster themes and he was free to create within that setting. The series of posters was created through the auspices of the Treasury Department and were successfully published nationwide. In 1943, two of Harold’s war posters were featured in the Museum of Modern Art’s Artists for Victory exhibit. In 1945, in response to the revelation of the atrocities of the Holocaust, Harold did many blackened drawings of prisoners and the camps.

    In 1946, Harold left Woodstock and returned to New York City. He continued easel painting, sculpting, and photography. He also began teaching art from his studio on West 21st Street. In 1950, Lehman met Leona Koutras, who had come to his studio for art lessons. Two years later they married and had two children. In the 1970s Harold worked as designer and scenic artist for CBS and NBC television.

    Physical Details

    Object Type
    Linocuts (tgm)
    Physical Description
    Black and red linocut print on medium weight, faded white paper depicting a surrealist image of three human bodies, with elongated necks and their heads in a cloud. At the bottom of the image are the rounded shapes of three human bodies, lying on the ground, one with their hands raised. Their stretched out necks rise up past the black cloud above them and into the white cloud at the top. Poking out of the white cloud are two undefined faces on the left and center and a more detailed one on the right. At the bottom is the title, date and author’s signature. The red and the black print are not properly aligned. The image is surrounded by dots and streaks of black and red. At the top, the paper is taped to a white rectangular backing mat board with thin, clear tape. A rectangular sheet of clear plastic covers the paper and is taped to the mat board at the top. A window mat is attached to the backing mat and frames the image. The backing mat board has text along the bottom. There is a wide strip of adhesive residue along the entire top edge of the paper.
    overall: Height: 15.500 inches (39.37 cm) | Width: 12.500 inches (31.75 cm)
    pictorial area: Height: 11.000 inches (27.94 cm) | Width: 8.750 inches (22.225 cm)
    overall : mat board, paper, ink, plastic, adhesive tape, pencil, masking tape
    on print, bottom, handwritten, pencil : ‘ISOLATIONISTS’ - H. Lehman 1938
    base pressboard interior, bottom, handwritten, pencil : HAROLD LEHMAN “ISOLATIONISTS” 1938 linocut ed. 15
    base pressboard interior, bottom right, handwritten, pencil : 1500

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    Restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The linocut was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2015 by Lisa Lehman Trager, the daughter of Harold Lehman.
    Record last modified:
    2023-02-23 16:50:57
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