Oral history interview with Charles W. Corey regarding James Montgomery Flagg, 1983 June 8
Corey, Charles W.
Kirwin, Liza, 1957-
Flagg, James Montgomery
Oral History Program
Place of publication, production, or execution:
1 sound file : digital, wav file
Originally recorded on 1 sound cassette. Reformatted in 2010 as 1 digital wav file. Duration is 17 min.
An interview of Charles W. Corey conducted 1983 June 8, by Liza Kirwin, for the Archives of American Art. Corey reminisces about his experiences posing for a World War II poster painted by James Montgomery Flagg in 1942. He relates his memories of Flagg's studio and work habits.
Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Charles W. Corey regarding James Montgomery Flagg, 1983 June 8. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Funding for the digital preservation of this interview was provided by a grant from the Save America's Treasures Program of the National Park Service.
Charles W. Corey is an artists' model, living in Malaga, Spain.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and others.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 750 9th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001
overall: 40 in x 28 in x in; 101.6 cm x 71.12 cm x .0508 cm
Four-color print on paper.
James Montgomery Flagg, the creator of this poster, was born in New York in 1877. As a child he began to draw and sold his first picture at the age of twelve. Two years later he was contributing to Life magazine and at fifteen was on the staff of the The Judge. Flagg studied at the Art Students League in New York. When he was twenty, he spent a year working in London before moving to France. Flagg was one of America's leading illustrators. His illustrations were in Photoplay,McClure's Magazine,Collier's Weekly,Ladies' Home Journal,Cosmopolitan,Saturday Evening Post, and Harper's Weekly. During the World War I Flagg designed forty-six posters for the government. His most famous work is the Uncle Sam poster with the caption "I Want You for the U.S. Army." An adapted version of this poster was also used during the World War II. Flagg died in 1960.
Posters during World War II were designed to instill in people a positive outlook, a sense of patriotism, and confidence. They linked the war in trenches with the war at home. From a practical point, they were used to encourage all Americans to help with the war effort. The posters called on every man, woman, and child to endure the personal sacrifice and domestic adjustments to further the national agenda. They encouraged rationing, conservation, and sacrifice. In addition, the posters were used for recruitment, productivity, and motivation as well as for financing the war effort. The stark, colorful graphic designs elicited strong emotions. The posters played to the fears, frustrations, and faith in freedoms that lingered in people's minds during the war.
James Montgomery Flagg's portrait of writer Ring Lardner depicts an enigmatic "professional humorist who sometimes smiled but never laughed." Lardner's fiction was admired for its command of colloquial language and its non-idealized characters. "I try to write about people as real as possible," he once wrote. Lardner's You Know Me, Al (1916), featuring the letters of a fictional rookie ballplayer, established the author's reputation and inspired a comic strip. This drawing appeared in a 1922 advertisement for the strip and was later published in a collection of Flagg's celebrity portraits. Flagg drew Lardner from life, deftly documenting his thin, downturned lips, heavy-lidded "owl eyes," and angular nose and chin. The artist, best known for his Uncle Sam "I Want You" recruiting poster, succeeds in capturing that "mask over his emotions," which disguised but did not diminish Lardner's keen wit.
Charcoal, graphite and crayon on illustration board
Image: 23.9 x 17.2cm (9 7/16 x 6 3/4")
Board: 30.5 x 21.4cm (12 x 8 7/16")
Mat: 45.7 x 35.6cm (18 x 14")
Famed illustrator James Montgomery Flagg was a fixture of New York's smart set, and he often sketched from life the figures he encountered. In 1914 he published The Well-Knowns, a book of his celebrity portraits, which included this image of illustrator Rose O'Neill. Despite Flagg's acerbic streak, no one could achieve softer, more sensuous effects from charcoal and pencil, and this drawing suggests his strong admiration for O'Neill. Giving a jaunty tilt to her head, he implies independence and brilliance as well as beauty. In 1909 O'Neill had become a phenomenon for her impish little cupids, called "kewpies," whose gestures she based on memories of a baby brother. They evolved into a marketing bonanza that lasted a quarter-century, generating the wildly popular kewpie dolls, as well as china, wallpaper, fabric, knickknacks, and even a Broadway musical.
Rose O'Neill: Visual Arts\Artist\Illustrator
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 30 Jan 1882 - 12 Apr 1945
Color photolithographic poster with halftone
Image: 53.9 x 42.3cm (21 1/4 x 16 5/8")
Board: 71.1 x 55.9cm (28 x 22")
Mat: 71.1 x 55.9cm (28 x 22")
A to G depth: 7/8"
When James Montgomery Flagg drew his famous World War I "I Want You" recruiting poster, he turned to the mirror for his craggy image of Uncle Sam. Although inspired by the British image of a pointing Lord Kitchener, Flagg's version captured the public's imagination with special effectiveness. Along with the stern features of the self-portrait, the foreshortened hand gesture forged a personal connection with the viewer. A generation later, Flagg translated that familiar image into this presidential campaign piece promoting Franklin D. Roosevelt's unprecedented fourth term. The poster coyly avoids asking for votes, suggesting instead that America's duty was to convince the incumbent to run in order to "finish the job." The poster was issued by the Independent Voters Committee of the Arts and Sciences for Roosevelt, founded in 1944 to promote a fourth term, with the expectation that the president could deliver both victory and a progressive peace settlement.
Human Figures\Symbolic Figure\Uncle Sam
Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Law and Law Enforcement\Lawyer
Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Politics and Government\Governor\New York
Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Politics and Government\President of US
Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Politics and Government\State Senator\New York
Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Politics and Government\Vice-Presidential Candidate
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution