Last night Leonard Lauder – cosmetic executive, philanthropist, collector – came to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts to to lecture about the collection of more than 100,000 postcards he’s donated to the MFA.
And it was very fine.
Lauder, a billionaire, gave a compelling presentation of the commonplace postcard, which was all the rage during the first part of the 20th century. From the MFA’s website:
The numbers are staggering—a billion cards passed through the German postal system in 1903, and the British used 833 million stamps for postcards in 1909. The turn of the 20th century saw a craze for postcards, which were once the most speedy way to communicate, disseminating photographs of current events even faster than newspapers. Leonard A. Lauder outlines the contributions by renowned avant-garde artists such as Emil Nolde and Wassily Kandinsky, and provides personal insights into his own collecting, revealing why he has found the postcard to be such a fulfilling pursuit for more than half a century.
Lauder’s lecture focused mostly on postcards as photo journalism – images of the Titanic’s lifeboats nestling next to the rescue ship Carpathia; a photo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie five minutes before they were assassinated, triggering World War I; a 1923 Ku Klux Klan Labor Day march in Milo, Maine.
The postcard exhibit – which ranges much more widely – is up through April 14. Well worth a visit.