A bright, crisp, art deco oil on canvas, featuring a stylish flapper mother in cloche hat and her children marveling at Rastus the iconic Cream of Wheat chef, who is winking at modernism by pointing to the picture within the picture. A very rare surviving work which is attributed to Enoch Bolles, who worked for many years creating similar streetcar advertisements for Vicks Vaporub, Squibb's Dental Cream, and Uneeda Biscuits. This painting has been marked sold on our gallery for the past several months, the buyer never completed the transaction so it is again available for purchase.
Selections from the rich Cream of Wheat collection of original were loaned out in the late 1980s for a touring gallery exhibition. None of the original paintings commissioned for Cream of Wheat advertising have ever been available for sale. Each original piece of artwork used in Cream of Wheat advertising was carefully stored and archived at the Cream of Wheat headquarters in northeast Minneapolis. The unusual care taken to protect this thorough, well-maintained archive is testament to the foresight of Emery Mapes, who presided over the Cream of Wheat advertising campaign. Most advertising illustration in the early 20th century was considered expendable, and was quickly destroyed, lost or thrown away. Mapes insisted upon treating the art as art, and employed the finest talents working as illustrators to help developed Cream of Wheat's folksy nostalgic iconography. Counted among the artists Mapes recruited are N.C. Wyeth, Jessie Willcox Smith, Phillip Goodwin, J.C. Leyendecker, James Montgomery Flagg and Edward V. Brewer. With the help of this stable of talent, the Cream of Wheat advertising campaign came to define some of the most enduring visions of American hearth and home.
The advertising also created one of the most recognizable, storied, and controversial fictional personalities in American history; Rastus the Chef. Based upon a photograph of African American chef Frank White, Rastus presided over Cream of Wheat boxes and appeared in the company's color advertising campaign from much of the 20th century. His face was often presented as a photo element within the artwork so as to brand a single image of the iconic character. This photo element would be applied to the canvas and painted over and colored as needed by the artist. After the urging of the NAACP Cream of Wheat abandoned the name Rastus (one of many derogatory names used as racial slurs in the late 19th/early 20th century), but the chef remained an integral part of the brand. Always shown smiling, benevolent, and offering comfort, the chef presents an idyllic view of traditional America. This America holds a pre-industrial sense of the bounty of the heartland and also many of the racial tensions inherent to this agrarian image of America. The tension between the sometimes uncomfortable depictions of the Chef and the incredibly poignant nostalgic visions of a timeless America only adds to the historic significance of this uniquely American art.
We recently acquired a large collection of original works from this storied archive. Seldom do original artworks come on the market that offer the chance to own a part of history, and we are delighted to be able to offer them.