Sunday, October 19, 2008

World War I Era Propaganda

I find that the poster art driven propaganda of the Allies and Central powers is an interesting topic, mainly because it serves as a indication of cultural values and design influence throughout Eurpoe an dthe United States. The posters goal was to rally support within each respective country and encourage enlistment within the particular branches of military service.

United States
The most well known symbol of American war propaganda (arguably still today), are the I Want for U.S. Army (1917) posters by James Flagg. The iconic image of Uncle Sam pointing to "you" to step up and serve for the military, oozed patriotism and served as a universal tool for enlistment. I find it funny that James Flagg based his illustration of Uncle Sam partly upon himself. Also notable, were the works of Howard Christy. His posters depicted female Americans donning military uniforms. These female illustrations are referred to as the "Christy Girl." The "Christy Girl" was influenced by the sexualized depictions of women in advertising throughout Europe in the Art Nouveau period. Christy's illustrations of women weren't overtly sexual, yet were balanced by fresh-faced modesty and vague suggestion. Overall, the American propaganda posters were very illustrative and subject based, also they have a hand-drawn quality to the text(especially the Christy posters).

The British posters stylistically were realistic illustrations, particularly the works by Alfred Leete. Similar to the works of Flagg, Leete created the equivalent of Uncle Sam for Britain called Britons [Lord Kitchener] Wants You (1914). Lord Kitchener propelled the genre of "pointing posters" through its usage of foreshortening and direct eye contact. Other British propaganda posters depicted images of family life and support of women, for example the works of Edward Keeley and Saville Lumley.

The Central Powers
The German propaganda has a completely different aesthetic to their posters. The posters were heavily influenced by the Sachplakat. I think that the German posters were much more modern and saavy then the works of the Allies, even if the images were dominated by symbols of violence, strength, and power. Two good examples of this are Das ist der Weg zum Frieden by Lucien Bernhard and 8 Kriegsanleihe by Julius Klinger. The most well known designer for the Central Powers was Ludwig Holwein. Holwein's posters were painterly and flattened like the works of the Beggarstaff. Both Bernhard and Holwein were very avante-garde in their approach to design in this period and evn more so post-World War I.

1 comment:

April G. said...

This biography of Flagg
states that he was 12 years old when he sold his first drawing. The drawing was sold to St. Nicholas Magazine. By the age of 15 he was on staff with both Life and Judge magazines. It's amazing to me how early some of the artists that've come before us started. It seems now now-a-days there is such an emphasis put on having a college education, that you wouldn't be able to start working before you have earned your college degree. But then again, you hear stories about child prodigies who start their own small businesses and become so successful so early in life.

I also, think it's pretty funny that he used himself as the Uncle Sam model. This Wikipedia page says that he did this because he didn't want the hassle of having to arrange a model. Pretty smart guy!