The Rescue. 1940. Lithograph. 12 3/4 x 8 1/8 (sheet 13 3/4 x 9). Edition for the Artists' International Association: Everyman Prints. A fine impression in good condition, printed on cream wove paper. Unsigned. With the 'A.I.A. Everyman Prints' stamp, lower right. $175.
In 1933, an association of left-wing British artists founded in London in 1933 as the Artists International to promote united action among artists and designers on social and political issues, and active from 1953 to 1971. In its original formulation it pursued an identifiably Marxist programme, with its members producing satirical illustrations for Left Review ) and propaganda material for various left-wing organizations. Reconstituted as the AIA in 1935, it avoided identification with any particular style, attracting broad support from artists working in both a traditional and modernist vein in a series of large group exhibitions on political and social themes, beginning with 1935 Exhibition (Artists Against Fascism & War) in 1935 (London, 28 Soho Square). Support was given to the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War (1936-9) and to the Artists' Refugee Committee through exhibitions and other fund-raising activities, and efforts were made to increase popular access to art through travelling exhibitions, public murals and a series of mass-produced offset lithographs entitled Everyman Prints, published by the AIA in 1940 (see exh. cat., p. 57).
The series of Everyman Prints published by the AIA comprised fifty-two lithographs, all on the same size sheets of paper. Those in black and white were sold at 1s. each; those in two colours at 1s. 6d. A pamphlet was published to accompany the series: "AIA Everyman Prints are intended for every home . . . Everyman Prints now widen the range from which the visual taste can be gratified, by offering the direct work of living artists at a price so reasonable that the outlay need not involve anxious consideration, and the collecting of prints is now within the possibility of every purse. Everyman Prints are not reproductions. In each case the artist has actually drawn on the metal plate from which are pulled the prints exhibited for sale. The life of a plate is limited; at the first sign of wear the edition will be closed. The Everyman Print owner, therefore, need not fear that his chosen prints will be on every wall; his collection, whether framed or in portfolio, will represent his own selection. Artists drawing for Everyman Prints believe that they will gain as much as the public from the scheme. The sales will show the creative artist the pictorial interests of the public, and the public will realise the contribution the artist can make to the social and cultural life of our times". (See Lynda Morris and Robert Radford, 'The Story of the AIA', Museum of Modern Art, Oxford 1983, pp.56-8)
The series was devised late in 1939, partly as a response to the sudden unemployment of artists after the declaration of war. Almost all the prints were of everyday scenes, many relating to wartime conditions, and there was little or nothing of political import. The prints were marketed on a wide scale throughout the country from the end of January 1940, and 3,000 were sold in three weeks. The British Museum, in the person of A.M. Hind, acquired twenty-three plates for £1 6s., of which this is one. Although the series was warmly welcomed by critics (for example, Percy Horton in 'The Studio' 119 (1940), pp.160-63), by 1942 sales had only reached 5,000, and one of the most ambitious initiatives this century to sell original prints to a mass market had failed.
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