Seven score and ten years ago President Abraham Lincoln delivered the one of the best known speechs in American history, the Gettysburg Address. It was delivered during the American Civil War, on the afternoon of November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This was four and a half months after the Union armies defeated those of the Confederacy at the Battle of Gettysburg and more than50,000 soldiers had died in this battle alone. For this 150th anniversary there are events and re-enactments going on all year in Gettysburg and even a couple French creations celebrating the event.
CREATING «REMEMBER GETTYSBURG!» ANNIVERSARY POSTER by Jean-Pierre Got
My work as a «travelling poster artist» often takes me to historical places. So when I was in Leesburg Virginia, signing its «Wine Country Half Marathon» event poster in June 2011, I was determined to visit the Gettysburg battlefields. A very impressive and very moving spectacle, indeed, to be compared with our tragic WWI trenches site of Verdun in France. The Gettysburg Cyclorama provided a vivid and striking expression of the 1863 gruesome combats. I learned of French artist Paul Philippoteaux and his gigantic painted circular mural.
Back in France, I decided to learn more about the French painters who were inspired by the U.S. Civil War; I have counted fifteen of them, from lithographer Pierre Duval, printing «In defense of the Union and the Constitution» posters in 1861 to Charles Hoffbauer with his «Cheering Stonewall Jackson» & «Four Seasons of the Confederacy» both 1914 Richmond murals. I, in turn, wanted to render a visual impression of my Gettysburg visit. The «Gettysburg 150th Anniversary» in 2013 provided a sufficient and useful motivation to start working on the subject.
My «pastiche» style, in my posters, is a deliberate reminder to the viewers that «they might have already seen that image… somewhere». Or it might bring back memories of antique posters using pastel crayons for a vaporous atmosphere and a charcoal to give that old lithograph print aspect. Therefore, my commemorative Gettysburg poster would have to look like one of the U.S. Civil War billboards with their bold letterheads and striking short slogans and my models were authentic civil war recruitment posters seen at Harper’s Ferry and Gettysburg historic museums. The title «Remember Gettysburg!», an obvious allusion to «Remember The Alamo!», would give, straight away, the main patriotic «editorial line». For a poster should tell a story, attracting the passer-by’s attention without distracting it by sending too many extraneous messages.
On a poster, a human character brings «factuality»; reality & seriousness. Lincoln’s facial features are well known: hollow eyes sockets, protruding lips, the right cheek mole, the drooping left eyelid. All this had to be rendered, making the character familiar and sympathetic to the viewer. As for the beard that Lincoln started to grow after his 1860 election, many photos show an uncertain chin curtain with hair scarcely strewn on his face sides, maybe one of the signs of Lincoln’s poor health. I wanted my portrait of Lincoln to look as he might have been in 1863: a tired aged man. I tried to imagine him pronouncing the words of the speech, written behind him on the poster, in a determined but soft voice, showing in his eyes the determination of the commander-in-chief as well as the kindness of the man, drawn with a charcoal for strength and pastel for softness. In a gesture evidently reminiscent of the «I Want You» 1914 army poster, (my allusion and tribute to poster artist Montgomery Flagg) with a powerful hand, Lincoln points at the listener of his speech, at the witness of Gettysburg’s great page in history. Hence Lincoln’s figure, rising from his Gettysburg Address, alive again in his call to younger generations to learn from the cruel lessons of the Past.
«Remember Gettysburg!», the only hand-painted poster of this year’s Battle of Gettysburg celebrations, is in several museum collections and on sale at: www.GettysburgAddress.com. Learn more about Mr Got’s poster art on http://jeanpierregot.online.fr/ Commissions accepted.
Another French creation focusing on Gettyburg is an application for teaching kids the history of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War period. This interactive tool by Quelle Histoire is a fun way for kids to learn their history. The application consists of a portrait gallery of Lincoln’s contemporaries, Mr Lincoln’s personal history including important dates and 4 educational games to help retain what has been learned, all this in four languages: English, French, German and Spanish. Quelle Histoire’s prize winning applications for iPhone et iPad also treat 10 other subjects from Louis XIV to Napoleon and Beethoven to Nelson Mandela.