Lehmann Printing and Lithographing Company,
Kemble Collections on Western Printing and Publishing
California Historical Society
Vintage: Wine, Beer, and Spirits Labels from the Kemble Collections on Western Printing and Publishing
December 10, 2016 - April 16, 2017
This exhibition explores CHS’s exquisite collection of vintage wine, beer, and spirits labels produced by the now-forgotten Lehmann Printing and Lithographing Company of San Francisco. Designed during the terrible privation and unrest of the Great Depression, Lehmann’s labels graced hundreds of thousands of bottles of mass manufactured, highly alcoholic wines and liquors, invoking deliciously unrealistic fantasies of peace, plenty, and the high-class life. Marrying design with consumer ideology, the Lehmann oeuvre represents a forgotten high point of American commercial art.
Founded in 1911 by Adolph Lehmann with an initial investment of $190, the firm expanded into a major industrial printing operation valued at $600,000 by 1935. A dazzled correspondent for the Inland Printer dubbed Lehmann “the printer who hasn’t heard about the depression.” The company employed one hundred people, including a permanent staff of anonymous artists who designed each custom label with skillful care. To meet an ever-increasing demand for labels, Lehmann also pioneered a stock label service in the mid-1930s, creating catalogs of generic labels with stock vignettes that could be applied to a wide variety of products.
The Lehmann art department flourished in the fast pace of mass production, finding in their daily grind opportunities for seemingly inexhaustible creative invention. Their visual vocabulary included certain recurring motifs—parted curtains, heavy vines, and peaceful fields—and surprisingly effective combinations of Art Deco design with romanticized references to the Middle Ages, the Mission Era, and the Gold Rush. The labels mythologized both California’s past and present, illustrating a vision of social and industrial harmony from which the bitter realities of history were excluded.
The exhibition features hundreds of colorfully illustrated labels, ephemera, and stock label catalogue books from Lehmann Printing.
In the midst of the Great Depression, hundreds of thousands of bottles of mass-manufactured California wines and spirits invoked fantasies of the good life. This was due in no small part to their inebriating contents, but the effect was further enhanced by exquisite labels produced by anonymous designers at San Francisco's Lehmann Printing and Lithographing Company. Working within a house style defined by vivid hues, adventurous lettering, and an art deco sensibility, these beautiful labels marketed the myth of idyllic, paradisiacal California. Published in collaboration with Heyday Books, these two volumes available for sale in the Ten Lions Book Store or through the Heyday website.
Through April 16, 2017
Photographing South of Market: Ira Nowinski and Janet Delaney
Ira Nowinski and Janet Delaney photographed San Francisco's South of Market in the 1970s and 1980s during a massive push to transform what was once a working class neighborhood and light industrial zone into the business and entertainment district it is today.
This installation is part of Neighborhood for Art, a self-guided walking tour celebrating the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's (SFMOMA) expansion and opening this May. Listen to Avery Trufelman, a producer with the design podcast "99% Invisible," as she leads an exploration of how SFMOMA fits into the neighborhood. Neighborhood for Art is available only through the SFMOMA app. Download it for free at sfmoma.org/app.
Art of the West Exhibition
The Autry in Griffith Park
4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles
Free to California Historical Society Members
Visit the California Historical Society Gallery at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles. The CHS Gallery is part of the permanent exhibition Art of the West , which showcases the dynamic and evolving world of art that springs from the cultural practices of some of the many peoples who have shaped the American West. The CHS Gallery features selections from CHS's fine arts and costumes collections that are permanently housed at the Autry. This collaboration has assured the exhibition and conservation of significant works of art from the CHS Collection by some of America's best known nineteenth and early twentieth-century artists (including Albert Bierstadt, James Walker, and Maynard Dixon) as well as turn-of-the-nineteenth-century costumes. The Art of the West exhibition is the first of its kind to explore how shared values and interests have inspired artists from different cultures and times to create distinctive, powerful works that speak to their experience of the West as both a destination and a home.