09 Jul

George Tscherny for MoMA and the Family Service Association

George Tscherny Collection, Box 2 Folder 2. Family Service Association poster for Museum of Modern Art, 1956.

After visiting Designing Home: Jews and Midcentury Modernism at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, which included George Tscherny’s designs for Lark cigarettes and letterhead for the Museum of Modern Art’s 1956 exhibition American Fabrics (also in the Archives!), I was inspired to revisit some other work Tscherny did for MoMA around the same time. Tscherny participated in MoMA’s Posters for the Family Service Association, the first exhibition at the museum created for an outside social welfare agency. The Family Service Association was eager to raise awareness of the resources available for emotional and mental heath concerns, a relatively unexplored topic for posters at the time. The exhibitors were Ben-Zion, Bernarda Bryson, Leo Lionni, Noel Martin, Wayne Miller, Constantino Nivola, Robert Andrew Parker, George Tscherny, and Henry Ries.

Tscherny’s poster from this exhibition is at the top of this post. Below are two unused alternate designs.

George Tscherny Collection, Box 2 Folder 2. Original art for Family Service Association poster (alternate design) for Museum of Modern Art, 1956.

George Tscherny Collection, Box 2 Folder 2. Original art for Family Service Association poster (alternate design) for Museum of Modern Art, 1956.

George Tscherny Collection, Box 1 Folder 6. Article from the Cincinnati Enquirer, 1956.

The exhibition’s press release is notable for its lengthy defense of the poster, detailing MoMA’s history of poster projects, beginning with its first competition in 1933. Mildred Constantine, who worked in MoMA’s architecture and design department from 1940 to 1970, wrote in the release:

The Museum believes that the creative artist functions as a part of the living world, whether he paints easel pictures or designs posters. Posters play an important role in the social scene, by direct communication or by evoking ideas or emotions to which the observer subconsciously reacts. Through the medium of the poster the creative artist can translate a multitude of social, scientific and educational ideas into a visual language understood throughout the world.