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Hut, hut, hike! A gorgeous, vintage football find for game day

Forward pass by Joseph Vogel
8"x10" ($35) | 11"x14" ($75) | 16"x20" ($260) | 24"x30" ($1000)

Collect this edition

This time last year, you might have been gearing up to gather with friends on that first sporty Sunday of February—the Super Bowl. Maybe your goal was to cheer on your team, critique commercials, or just dive elbow deep into a vat of buffalo chicken dip. Regardless, there would have been a festive air in those few hours of weekend revelry, something to look forward to. There’s no getting together to watch the game this go around, but we’re still gonna stream some football, order takeout from our favorite local spots, and seize the opportunity to celebrate small wins. Helping us get in the spirit? This colorful, energetic new Vintage Edition, featuring three stylized football players out on the field. Trust when we say you’ll want to (ahem) secure possession of Forward pass.

Originally painted in the 1930s by Joseph Vogel, Forward pass is an excellent example of the artist’s wheelhouse. Broad brushstrokes and bold, isolated hues create a color-driven composition. Vogel’s expressive, abstract style evokes the enthusiasm and excitement of the game. The three players are almost balletic in their posture, but their oversized hands and broad shoulders hint at their brute force. The field, flags, and distant goal post take a backseat to the dynamic dance frozen in the fore. This seems to be a scene of near success, the Quarterback hoisting the ball high out of reach, an offensive lineman (at bottom) blocking a tackle. Since these figures are faceless, this isn’t a nod to individual victory. Rather, it’s a triumph of teamwork, and an homage to the artfulness of athletic improvisation.

Born in Poland in 1911, Vogel immigrated to the United States at 16 and went on to study at the National Academy of Design in New York (though he’d likely have attributed the thrust of his art education to exploring museums and participating in various art associations). He painted Forward pass around 1936 while working with the Federal Arts Project (FAP), a subdivision of the Depression-era Works Progress Administration—a government program that drummed up employment opportunities through various public works projects. One of the few artists at the FAP focused on abstraction, Vogel also tapped into surrealist and expressionist elements. In fact, he was pleasantly surprised to find freedom and flexibility at the FAP, not the usual rigidity he’d come to expect of government-supported arts roles.

Vogel’s work spanned a wide range of subject matter, sports among them, and considering the timing of his FAP stint, it’s not surprising that football would be, well, something he’d tackle. The 1930s were a formative decade for the NFL, who held their first official championship game in 1933. By 1934, every small-town team aside from the Green Bay Packers had relocated to a big city, or been replaced by teams in those cities. In 1936, the first college draft took place, and in the fall of 1939 the first televised football game was broadcast. The 30s were also the period when the NFL became segregated, owners adopting white-only policies in part to pander to Southern fans. It wasn’t until after World War II that those racist policies began to break down. And the Super Bowl? That food-fueled, commercial-inflected, yearly bacchanal for football fans (and folks like us who’ll follow the chicken wings anywhere)? It kicked off some years later in 1960, as part of a merger between the NFL and the American Football League. It’s now the most-watched American television program in history.

Forward pass captures the era's buzz around football, strong enough to break through even during the Great Depression. Beyond that, Vogel’s artistry is a reminder that beautiful things can emerge from trying times. You might even say this edition is a testament to teamwork—whether as part of a government art project, an intrepid little art company (hi!), or an athletic team. Turns out, it really does make the dream work.

With art for everyone,
Team 20x200

Tags: new art