The "Eye"

The "Eye" from Willy Petzold's 1931 poster

We were so impressed with the all-seeing eye graphic that we used it for our current Facebook cover. The design stems from Willy Petzold’s (1885-1978) poster for an International Hygiene Exhibition and is featured in our April 28 auction (lot 132).

Franz von Stuck's 1911 poster for the Dresden Hygiene Exhibition

Franz von Stuck Dresden poster, 1911

The “eye” was initially used by Munich painter Franz von Stuck (1863-1928) in his 1911 poster for Dresden’s first International Hygiene Exhibition, a world’s fair focusing on modern technology, medical science, and public health. Interestingly enough, however, the original “eye” was Petzold’s idea. The preparations for the Dresden fair included a poster competition in 1910. While the response was enormous – 530 entries were submitted – the jury was rather disappointed with the overall quality of the submitted works and decided not to award a first prize. In the end, the judges focused on an eye motif submitted by the young and, at the time, rather unknown glass painter, Willy Petzold (who later became a graphic and poster designer). The brainchild and creator of the Dresden Hygiene Exhibition, industrialist Karl August Lingner (1861-1916), commissioned the well-known Munich artist Franz von Stuck to convert the design into a poster. The idea was to create an image of a huge eye looking down from the heavens that would watch over and see through the human body. This symbolic characteristic seemed suitable at a time when microscopes and X-rays began to uncover new secrets about the human body.

Stuck's 1912 poster for the Darmstadt exhibition "Der Mensch"

von Stuck, 1912 Darmstadt

Stuck's 1922 poster for the exhibition "Der Mensch" in Bern, Switzerland

von Stuck, 1922, Bern

The International Hygiene Exhibition opened on May 6, 1911, featured 30 participating countries and attracted more than five million visitors. A combination of state-of-the-art technology and displays of lifelike representations of the human body were used to teach about human anatomy, health care and diet. The event led to the establishment of the German Hygiene Museum (Deutsches Hygiene-Museum) in 1912. Von Stuck’s eye would reappear in the 1912 and 1922 exhibition posters “Der Mensch” that took groups of the displays from the original 1911 Dresden expo to Darmstadt and Bern.

Willy Petzold's 1931 poster (the design was identical to the 1930 version)

Willy Petzold, 1931

Günther Mickwausch's 1949 rendering of the "eye"

Günther Mickwausch, 1949

In 1930 the organizers of the International Hygiene Exhibition in Dresden asked Willy Petzold to create a new poster. Petzold remained very close to the original image and made the stylized eye the sole artistic feature of the new design. The poster was used for the 1930 and 1931 exhibits in Dresden. Other renderings of the “eye” were used in future exhibits. The German Hygiene Museum has retained the image of the “eye” as part of its logo today (online at www.dhmd.de).

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