One of the most remarkable pieces in our December 6 Illustration Art auction is a calligraphed broadside with a statement signed by members of The League of American Writers, which features a headpiece illustration by Rockwell Kent, who was also a member of the contentious organization.
Lot 111: Rockwell Kent, To All Fascists, broadside for The League of American Writers, circa 1937 or 1938.
“Fascism has been tried before–under many names. Each time it has failed–and each time its failure has marked an advance of the idea of liberty, equality, fraternity and economic security for all.
Not liberty, equality, fraternity and economic security for one group–or one race–or one religion–or one country–but for all mankind.
In your hearts, fascists, you know this–and in your hearts you are afraid. That is why you must torture and burn and imprison and exile.
Do you really believe that by burning books and imprisoning writers you can keep truth from the world? Do you really think that you can dig a grave or build a prison large enough to hold the spirit of democracy?
Fascists, the grave you are digging is your own. You know it. So do we. That is why we are not afraid.”
-Donald Ogden Stewart, President of the League of American Writers
The League of American Writers
The League of American Writers was formed by artists, authors and poets and others under the Communist Party USA and established by the First American Writers Congress in 1935. The group began as an anti-fascist organization which then evolved to take an anti-war position during 1939, and was eventually terminated in the early 1940s.
Written by Donald Ogden Stewart, the President of the League and longtime friend and neighbor of Kent, this large-scale, anti-fascist broadside voiced the organization’s cry against the brutality of the Spanish Civil War. In addition to Kent and Stewart, other notable signers include Elmer Adler, Marc Blitzstein, Lawrence Gelb, Prince Hubertus and Princess Helga Maria Loewenstein, Henry Seidel Canby, and author and screenwriter Lester Cohen.
Lot 111: Rockwell Kent, To All Fascists, signatures of members of The League of American Writers, circa 1937 or 1938.
Although their signatures do not appear on the document, other prominent members of the League included Lillian Hellman, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck and Nathanael West. Hemingway, in particular, spoke out about his time covering the Spanish Civil War and the atrocities that he witnessed.
Kent began his progressive political activity in 1935, embarking on a path that would cause his popularity as an artist to fade during the 50s and 60s. In the 1950s he was blacklisted as a result of McCarthyism and the House Un-American Activities Committee; Kent was denied his passport and would take his case to the Supreme Court in 1958, which ultimately overturned the decision. To show his support for relations between America and the Soviet Union, the artist donated several hundred of his works to the country in 1960, and in 1967 he received the Lenin Peace Prize and donated a portion of his winnings to the women and children of Vietnam, both north and south.
Lot 111: Rockwell Kent, To All Fascists, detail of the headpiece illustration, circa 1937 or 1938.
This broadside was originally in the collection of a League member, and no other reproduction or version has been found among the Rockwell Kent Papers, the archives of The League of American Writers, The New York Public Library, or in other notable institutions.