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Working BIG with TASS, Part Two

If you read my previous post you'll remember that I said “Big Lenin,” at nearly ten and a half feet tall, was our SECOND largest poster that is going to be exhibited in this summer's Windows on the War: Soviet TASS Posters at Home and Abroad 1941-45. I bet you're wondering what could top that. Our largest poster, in fact, is very different from “Big Lenin,” both in composition and assemblage, and thus presents its own unique challenges. TASS 100, Defenders of Moscow, was released on July 28, 1941. And as a matter of fact, our first member preview day for Windows on the War will occur on July 28, 2011, this poster's seventieth birthday! But instead of one monumental image, Defenders of Moscow displays seven distinct image vignettes which each address different forms of the city's military and civilian defense, from how to employ local artillery and spotlights to shoot enemy planes out of the air to how to put out incendiary bombs on the ground. As it turns out, Defenders of Moscow was a prescient composition, since the city would be surrounded by the invading Nazi forces in October of that same year.

With seven images and multiple text panels, Defenders of Moscow is comprised of seventeen sheets of paper assembled in narrative form—much like a contemporary comic strip—which, when pieced together, stretch to nearly eleven feet in height. The poster had been sent abroad by the Soviet agency VOKS to an American former military man, Phil W. McMahon, who admired the design of political posters and sought to make these unusual Soviet TASS agency works part of his collection. In 1946 he bequeathed the lot of them to the Joslyn Museum in Omaha, Nebraska, and there they peacefully rested until we came knocking on their door. As this work had never been exhibited, it had never been fully assembled; its seventeen pieces were loose like a puzzle. This made it slightly easier to handle than “Big Lenin,” who was delivered to us in one piece, at least for preliminary conservation and for photography. However, Defenders of Moscow still needs to be framed. Our preparators are thinking of framing it in three separate pieces—you know, so it doesn't take a half-dozen football players to carry it to Regenstein Hall for installation. What will they decide? You'll just have to come to the show to see.

Be on the watch for Defenders of Moscow when you visit Windows on the War this summer. And if you attend the member previews, be sure to wish it a happy birthday!

—Jill B., Research Associate, Department of Prints and Drawings

Tags: TASS