Friday, June 17, 2016

Arty Farty Friday ~ James Montgomery Flagg

James Montgomery Flagg, (born June 18, 1877, Pelham Manor, New York — died May 27, 1960, New York.) American illustrator, poster artist, and portrait painter known particularly for his World War I recruiting poster of a pointing Uncle Sam. The poster was almost certainly inspired by Alfred Leete's British poster featuring Lord Kitchener (See HERE). Flagg's poster was reissued during World War II. Flagg wrote for magazines as well, also wrote an autobiography, Roses and Buckshot and wrote and acted in some silent films.

Mr Flagg himself appears in this 2 minute video:

There's a fair amount of information around the internet about Flagg's career history, and some snippets about his personality. For a compact rundown, this 1937 piece, by William Birchman, seems to capture him:

[Flagg] began his drawing career at the age of two and his first published drawing appeared in St. Nicholas ten years later. At fourteen, he was a staff artist on Life and Judge. He was born sixty years ago in Pelham Manor, Westchester County, New York. He studied at the Art Students League, at Herkomer School in England, and under Victor Marec in Paris. He wears tortoise-shell glasses when he works and twirls his big black eyebrows as he talks. His mind has the speed of a roulette wheel and his tastes are fastidious. He is openly hostile to ignorant people. His command of the King's English is better than most writers. His frank letters to art aspirants have avoided a flood of mediocre artists. He says the difference between the artist and illustrator is that the latter knows how to draw, eats three square meals a day, and can pay for them. He works incredibly fast, in any medium, turning out about 250 pictures a year less three months' vacation. He is an author of note, has written a series of motion pictures and satirical comedies, and has appeared on stage and screen. He is no Caspar Milquetoast. His caricatures, like his illustrations, are second to none. He can cook a mess of fish balls that would please any gourmet. He goes around the house in his pajamas wearing a monocle. He likes models well curved, feminine, and poised. Vivacious gals irritate his nerves, boyish gals are a crick in the thyroid, and he says, "real men are much better than imitations in brassieres." He has been married twice and has a daughter. His father is so youthful looking at eighty-two that he is constantly mistaken for his illustrious son. Like father, like son. O. O. McIntyre once wrote, "James Montgomery Flagg continues the Ponce de Leon among artists. Somewhere he seems to have tapped youth's eternal fountain. At an age when many limners have put away their drawing boards, he is doing more work than ever before, and with a zip." At this rate Mr. Flagg will not be applying for the Old-Age Pension!

Willis Birchman
Faces and Facts about 26 Contemporary Artists
Google Image page features lots of Flagg's illustrations; and HERE.

This website has some good-sized versions of Flagg's magazine covers and illustrations.

A couple of his posters, and these remain appropriate in 2016:


Born 18 June 1877, Pelham Manor, New York. Chart set for 12 noon, time of birth unknown.

From the quote above can be gleaned that Flagg was fast - physically and mentally, youthful even in senior years, fastidious, versatile, didn't suffer fools, gladly or at all, and he enjoyed the opposite sex.

Much of that could be attributed to Gemini Sun and Mercury; the fastidious observation might give a hint as to position of Flagg's natal Moon, which could easily have been in fastidious Virgo.

Gemini Sun opposite Jupiter in Sagittarius - hmmm - a hint of inflated ego and over-confidence, or maybe this simply reflects his extreme work output. Jupiter trines Uranus and Uranus sextiles Sun - which kind of softens the hard-edged feel of Sun opposed by Jupiter, and adds a touch of Bohemian to the mix via Uranus.

Arts planet Venus sextiles Neptune (creativity) and trines Mars (energy, speed) reflecting again some of the observations about this artist and his work style, by those who knew him.


mike said...

Geeeez...what a day...many interuptions. GiGi is on her third UTI since March, so a veterinary visit this morning...she's better. Gotta get this comment in...LOL.

I didn't realize the Kitchener copycats' hands in the making of the "Uncle Sam" posters...copying is the highest compliment. I'd a smacked Flagg (or left the premises), had I been the model in the video...LOL. The Willis Birchman excerpt is interesting, as Birchman makes a comment about Flagg's youthful father at the age of 82, which is the age that James Flagg passed away. Birchman makes Flagg sound like an interesting fellow, though curmudgeon.

His Sun opposed Jupiter aspect is actually a T-square with Saturn...adding that crispy-ness to his personality. Plus, Jupiter is in its home sign...Mercury in Gemini rules the Sun...that Mercury is inconjunct Jupiter...a bit weird. Mars on his N Node may have induced an uncertainty with his concept of masculinity, particularly since it forms a square with Mercury at the Nodal midpoint, and as you mention, that Mars is trine Venus. Since it isn't certain which sign his Moon is in, if in Libra, Venus and Moon are in mutual reception, and Venus-Moon would disposit all planets except Sun, Mercury, and Uranus. If Moon is in Virgo, Mercury is his final dispositor. His overall aspects, with the video and the Birchman excerpt inclines me to think he had an inferiority complex, where he over-compensated with ego assertion.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Awww - poor GiGi, she does have her problems! Glad to know she has recovered.

Flagg was one of those "Golden Age of Illustration" artists:
He was good, but so were they all!

From that brief video he struck me as sorely needing to loosen up, but that could be due to his having felt uncomfortable under the movie camera lens, I suppose - though if he'd appeared in silent films, as reported, he ought to have felt more at ease. Maybe that was, indeed, "him" - and makes me more inclined to feel his natal Moon was in Virgo.

Interesting theory about an inferiority complex being over-compensated. There's his Venus in Cancer too - maybe that reflects a Cancerian need to shield himself, which came over to others as either curmudgeonly or egotistical.

mike (again) said...

I took a nap for an hour and woke just a while ago...two minutes after waking, I knew I'd made a mistake on this post. Mercury and Jupiter are his final dispositors (I previously said only Mercury), if his Moon is in Virgo. I, like you, think his Moon was in the late degrees of Virgo, as that would have created a grand square: Sun-Moon-Jupiter-Saturn and fits the tension of his personality. Gets a little complicated, as his Moon could have been from 27* Virgo to 9* Libra. Saturn is at 20* Pisces. I would say that he definitely had, at minimum, a T-square with Sun-Jupiter-Saturn. If Moon was 0* to 7* in Libra, he would have had a T-square with Sun-Moon-Jupiter.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Thanks - I think a Grand Square is likely. With Sun and Moon both ruled by Mercury it'd further underline his writing skills - oral communication could have used some polishing though, from what we can glean. ;-)