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James Montgomery Flagg

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James Montgomery Flagg

(Pelham Manor, NY, 1877 - 1960, New York, NY)

Biography from AskART: James Montgomery Flagg was an illustrator, best remembered for his Uncle Sam "I Want You" poster, which was among the forty-six war-related posters he created between 1917-1919. He was a child prodigy who was contributing his illustrations to magazines by the age of twelve. He studied art in New York, England, and Paris. When he returned to the United States in 1902, he found the country very different. Cars and electricity were becoming increasingly popular, and airplanes and motion pictures were just about to be introduced. Flagg began creating posters, magazine covers, and advertisements reflecting this national furor over progress. Posters became an important propaganda vehicle to encourage army enlistment and to sell war bonds with the start of World War I, and Flagg created the now famous Uncle Sam, "I Want You, poster for this purpose. The figure of "Uncle Sam had first appeared in 1832 and was meant to be a personification of the U.S. government, hence the initials U.S. in Uncle Sams name, and the stars and stripes in his hat. Flagg drew himself as the figure of Uncle Sam in the poster, although the poster had been used previously in England. Over five-million copies of the poster were printed. He would repeat his figure of Uncle Sam in the World War II poster, "Uncle Sam" and the "Red Cross Nurse", which he created in 1942 in response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the United States entry into World War II. Congress adopted "Uncle Sam as a national symbol in 1961, largely to the credit of Flagg's illustration. Flagg was a man who lived with great zest and fit the popular concept of the bohemian artist living the high life and easily creating artwork. He worked very quickly and seemed comfortable with a variety of subject matter. Early in his career, he did a cartoon feature of "Nervy Nat," and also illustrated the characters of the P.G. Wodehouse stories, creating the archetypical interpretation of the valet "Jeeves". He was also a serious portrait painter and exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1900, at the National Academy of Design, and the New York Watercolor Club. In 1980, he was elected to the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.

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