Introduction and Acknowledgement

Modernism for the Masses: Artist-designed Postcards from the Collection of Anthony Guneratne, showcases approximately 450 well-preserved and representative postcards. With the exhibition, the Bienes Center hopes to shed some light on the little-researched and exhibited field of modern artist-designed postcards. It does so by tracing the development of the genre from the late 19th to the mid-20th century and it is arranged by historical period beginning with Neo-Impressionism and Symbolism and ending with Picasso, Matisse and later Modernism. Artists represented include: Bilibin, Cassandre, Walter Crane, Fidus, Icart, Man Ray, Mucha, Rodchenko, and Samuel L. Schmucker.

Postcards by their very nature are ephemeral, hence building a scholarly and balanced collection can be a formidable undertaking. Some postcards are unique; others were printed in editions of thousands, were frequently distributed and sold around the world, and in most cases, were meant to be written on, mailed, and then discarded. Few of the more unusual cards survived unscathed and those that did are coveted, cherished, and often expensive and difficult to acquire. In addition to garage and second-hand store sales, an extensive network of specialized dealers and vendors exists to cater to the needs of both the casual and the sophisticated collectors. In fact, there is an ever-growing body of literature devoted to deltiology, i.e., the study and collecting of postcards (from the Greek word deltion, a diminutive of deltos, a writing tablet) to which Broward County Libraries Division is pleased to add Mr. Guneratne’s essay and this publication.

Anthony Guneratne was born Colombo, Sri Lanka, has lived in Singapore, Great Britain, and Italy, and became a U.S. citizen in 1991. He teaches film and media studies at Florida Atlantic University. In addition, he has authored articles on literature, music and art history, and recently has completed two books on the history of film.

I would like to extend my profound gratitude to Anthony Guneratne for helping me to select, organize, and document the exhibition, and to his parents, Rex and Bernadette for the gracious reception they accorded me on a curatorial visit to their lovely home in Jacksonville, Florida. Mrs. Guneratne prepared an unforgettable Sri Lankan vegetarian lunch that was unusually delicious and that still lingers on my palate.

— James A. Findlay, Bienes Center Librarian


I would like to dedicate my essay to my father, Rex, as an overdue 70th birthday present, partly because he once declared my hobby of collecting postcards a [25 year] “waste of time,” and I would like to prove that it was time well wasted. He was a respectable scientist, a world-famous expert on avian diseases, in fact, and if James Findlay, the imaginative and indefatigable curator of the Bienes Center whose idea this exhibition is has granted his approval, the catalogue covers should be something of a tribute to his occupation of many years. It is also dedicated to my mother, Bernadette, who for the last forty years has had to play the role of the elegant lady in Mucha’s design, having sometimes been a little blue as in the first Cocorico series (146), but more often in a colorful mood as in the later Champenois variant (9).

— Anthony Guneratne

Artist-designed Postcards from the
Collection of Anthony Guneratne
Bienes Center for the Literary Arts • Fort Lauderdale, FL