Daily Art Moment: Edward Penfield

1. Edward Penfield, Harper's Christmas, 1895, color lithograph, 25 1/2 in × 20 1/4 inches. A vertical horizontal print showing an old-fashioned Santa Claus and a woman in a full skirted, dark dress with the words “Harper’s Christmas” in yellow. The light skinned woman wears a yellow hat and is positioned at right. She rests an outstretched hand on the Santa’s hand who stands slightly behind her at center. Santa wears a red hood and long cloak, has light skin and white beard and raises a glass in a toast. At top behind the pair are three green wreaths. Magazine copy appears at center left of the figures. 2. Harper's Christmas, 1896, color lithograph, 17 5/16 in × 12 15/16 inches. A vertical rectangular print showing a light skinned blonde woman in old- fashioned dress near a store window. The figure is positioned at right and wears a red dress with flounced sleeves and a black fur collar and muff. At right is a store window with a green wreath and a small white dog is on the sidewalk. The words “Harper’s Christmas” appears across the top in green lettering. 3. Harper's Christmas, 1897, color lithograph, 18 7/8 x 13 1/16 inches. A vertical rectangular print featuring a man in an old-fashioned brown suit reading a book while seated on a settle. The light-skinned man sits on the right end of the bench leaning against an armrest while a green wreath hangs at the left end. The words Harper’s Christmas appear across the top of the print in orange letters.

In the 1890s, color posters advertising books, magazines, and newspapers exploded onto the scene. Initially inspired by French designs, American artists soon created their own unique style. Edward Penfield led the field with his charming posters advertising Harper’s Magazine beginning in 1893. These designs, generally about 19 by 14 inches, were displayed in book stores and kiosks to induce readers to pick up the latest copy of Harper’s. Soon other publishers followed suit, and cities were awash with these colorful and artistic placards. 

Recently we celebrated this artistic, commercial, and literary movement in the exhibition The Art of Reading: American Publishing Posters of the 1890s. Now, we are delighted to announce that collectors Daniel Bergsvik and husband Donald Hastler have donated 47 of these publishing posters to the Museum! These three examples, all by Penfield, were created for the special Christmas issue of the magazine.

LEFT: Edward Penfield (American, 1866-1925), Harper’s Christmas, 1895, color lithograph, sheet: 25 1/2 in × 20 1/4 in, Gift of Daniel Bergsvik and Donald Hastler. L2019.63.16

CENTER: Edward Penfield (American, 1866-1925), Harper’s Christmas, 1896, color lithograph, sheet: 17 5/16 in × 12 15/16 in, Gift of Daniel Bergsvik and Donald Hastler  L2019.63.17

RIGHT: Edward Penfield (American, 1866-1925), Harper’s Christmas, 1897, color lithograph, sheet: 18 7/8 x 13 1/16 in., Gift of Daniel Bergsvik and Donald Hastler, T2020.73.2

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