Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Stevan Dohanos 1948 Red Cross Poster – Part 1

Sixty-eight years ago this month, well-known Lorain artist Stevan Dohanos was featured on the front page of the Friday, Feb. 6, 1948 Lorain Journal shown above. He had just completed a painting to be used as a Red Cross campaign poster.

He even included a bit of Lorain in his poster artwork. You can read all about it in the article by Jean Weaver, which I have transcribed below for easier reading. (I’ve had to bust it into two parts; today’s part is the story behind the poster, and in tomorrow’s portion, the focus is on Dohanos himself.

Lorain Rooftops Part Of Red Cross Poster

The remembered rooftops of his hometown, Lorain, the spire of a little church in Connecticut and the strong green shaft of a lamp post in Conshohocken, Pa.

All these contributed to the intensely American theme of the 1948 Red Cross fund campaign poster, designed by Steven [sic] Dohanos, son of Andrew Dohanos, 5070 Elyria-av.

The story of how he came to paint the poster was told by Dohanos himself, in a recent interview at his Connecticut home.

Dohanos began working on sketches for the poster early last fall in his studio in Westport, Conn. The suggestion had been to show a Red Cross worker extending help in time of disaster.

Turns to Notebook
He had chosen a young woman worker from a neighboring Red Cross chapter, had photographs made of her against a background of destruction, sheltering a child in her arms and it was from these photographs that he was working.

But his artist’s mind kept searching for a simpler theme which would better represent the Red Cross as a basic part of American life.

In an old notebook filled with impressions of a sketching tour thru Pennsylvania several years before, he found one particular sketch which stood out in his memory.

On a street corner in the industrial town of Conshohocken near Philadelphia he had been struck by the symbolism of two flags, American and Red Cross, unfurled from the height of a lamp post.

This sketch was the starting point for a strong and simple poster chosen almost instantaneously from those submitted to the Red Cross.

At first Dohanos thought the lamp post and flags should stand alone against a plain background. But then he realized that “America” should be sketched in to give the touch of Main Street detail.

Thus the resulting poster gives a sum total of American, the gingerbread eaves and the quaint but homely cupola, the circling pigeons, the spire of the church and the squat water tower of a small industrial plant.

The hands of the clock on the church tower which point to seven after 11 suggest a mood and time of day and the flags suggest the whole way of life.

Tomorrow: The rest of the story

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