Object Timeline

1939

  • Work on this object began.

2002

  • We acquired this object.

2011

2017

2019

  • You found it!

Program, Twenty-Third Commencement program

This is a Program. It was graphic design by Alvin Lustig. We acquired it in 2002. Its medium is letterpress on heavy paper. It is a part of the Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design department.

Like Paul Rand, Ladislav Sutnar, and Bradbury Thompson, Alvin Lustig (1915–1955) was an innovative pioneer in developing American graphic design during the 1940s and 1950s. Lustig’s early work in the late 1930s reflects his training with Frank Lloyd Wright. Lustig's subsequent work evolved to adapt the powerful, visual language of cubism, constructivism, Dada, the Bauhaus, surrealism, biomorphism, and abstraction to designs for book jackets, identity programs, record covers, and interiors. Tragically, he did not live beyond two decades of his promising career as a leading graphic designer and educator.
This book cover is part of a larger proposed gift of Lustig’s work that would immeasurably strengthen the museum’s graphic design representation from the 1930s through the 1950s, which currently includes works by E. M. Kauffer, Rand, Sutnar, Lester Beall, and World War II propaganda posters. It would also join Lustig works already in the collection, received in 1993 as a gift from his widow, graphic designer Elaine Lustig Cohen, which include book jacket designs for Meridian Books/Noonday Press and New Directions. Acquiring additional works by Lustig also increases the potential for a contextual understanding of graphic design objects by Cohen held in the museum’s collection; Cohen’s early graphic design career and design vision was greatly influenced by working with her first husband. Moreover, the Lustig gift would provide a broader representation of the visual vocabulary reflected in industrial design, textiles and wall coverings of the period.
Most of Lustig’s designs for paperback books, record covers, trade catalogues, announcements, invitations, letterhead do not survive in pristine condition—if they survive at all—because his designs were for ephemeral objects that were constantly used. This proposed gift is additionally desirable because it was preserved for more than four decades by Lustig’s sister, Susan Lustig Peck.
(December 17, 2001)

  • Magazine, Cover, 1926
  • lithograph print on paper.
  • Smithsonian Libraries, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Library, N5 .W469 folio.
  • 43.2016.18

Cite this object as

Program, Twenty-Third Commencement program; Graphic design by Alvin Lustig (American, 1915–1955); USA; letterpress on heavy paper; 2001-29-1

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18694749/ |title=Program, Twenty-Third Commencement program |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=18 September 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>