Introduction

Visual Index (Entire Poster Collection)

Catalogue

Chronology of the War

Acknowledgements

Lists of References

Afterword: Herbert R. Southworth Collection


 

1 al 7 gener, U.G.T., C.N.T., Setmana de l'Infant

[January 1-7, U.G.T., C.N.T., Week of the Child]. Signed: Sim, XXXVI. Conselleria de Sanitat i Assistäncia Social. Seccio de Propaganda. Generalitat de Catalunya. Grafos Colectivizada Barna. Lithograph, 2 colors; 50 x 35 cm.

This small poster, issued by the Generalitat, the government of Catalonia, it announces, in Catalan, the "Week of the Child." The image includes the initials of the two largest trade unions in Spain before and during the war, the socialist-revolutionary Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT), and the Anarcho-syndicalist Confederación Nacional de Trabajadores (CNT). The joint presence of the initials of the UGT and the CNT reflects one of the many alliances that took place among trade unions and political organizations during the war period in Republican Spain. The CNT led the resistance to the military rebellion of July 1936 in Catalonia; as a result, the anarchist union was the de facto power in the region during the following months. On December 17, 1936, representatives of the UGT entered the Generalitat, joining members of the CNT and of other parties. It is probably this moment when the two trade-unions collaborated in the government of Catalonia that is reflected in this poster.

The Week of the Child was a festivity introduced in Republican Spain in the first week of January 1937 and repeated throughout the country the following year. The purpose of the event was to make the children forget the horrors of the war by providing them with gifts. The Week of the Child coincided with the feast of the Epiphany (the popular Reyes Magos) which was observed on January 6, and had traditionally been the moment when Spanish children received their Christmas gifts. The Epiphany had ceased to be celebrated in much of Republican Spain, together with all other public religious ceremonies, as a result of the efforts to create a secular society. But it needed to be replaced by a some festivity, in order to avoid any thought that the traditional past had been better than the present. An article in a contemporary newspaper referred to the Week of the Child in 1937, quoting a poster designed for the occasion: "The war should not destroy childhood happiness. Toys and storybooks are as necessary to children as bread. Children who play and read forget the horrors of the war." The date that appears by the signature, 1936, suggests that the poster was designed in that year, and used to advertise the subsequent Setmana de l'Infant of January 1-7, 1937.

This poster bears the signature "Sim," a pseudonym used by the painter Rey Vila. He received his artistic training in the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Barcelona. An unsigned text in an album of images which he executed during the war (12 Escenas de Guerra) states that during his military service in the Spanish territories in northern Africa, which coincided with the defeat of the Spanish troops at Annual (July 21, 1921), Sim "became aware of the moral turpitude of politicians and of the military, and he became a firm defender of the people.

For that reason, his drawings have an improvisational character, agile and nervous, emotional and revolutionary." In the first months of the war, Sim arrived at the headquarters of the artists' trade-union in Catalonia, the Sindicat de Dibuixants Professionals, "with an album of drawings under his arm" which he offered for publication (this album is probably Estampas de la Revolución Espa§ola, 19 de Julio de 1936). Sim was refused, partly because drawings were not seen as adequate means of propaganda, and also because he lacked personal references, an important liability in a climate of intense suspicion caused by the war. This poster is evidence that Sim found other means to collaborate with the war effort, working for the Generalitat (publisher of this poster), and also for anarchist organizations (the aforementioned album Estampas de la Revolución Española was published by the Spanish Anarchist Party, FAI, and by the CNT). After the war, Sim was exiled to Paris, where he continued working as an artist, signing with his own name, Rey Vila.

 
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