“Your Country Calls! Posters of the First World War” spotlights the use of graphic art as propaganda—encouraging enlistment, investment, sacrifice, and service& in both North America and Europe
On view in the Library, West Hall, Aug. 2–Nov. 3, 2014
Treat 'em Rough / Join the Tanks / United States Tank Corps., United States, 1918, August William Hutaf (1879–1942), color lithograph, 40 × 28 in. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
SAN MARINO, Calif.—A new exhibition at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens will demonstrate how World War I was waged not just by soldiers on battlefields, but by the citizenry at home through an innovative use of graphic art that worked to stir patriotism and service through the war years that spanned 1914 to 1918. “Your Country Calls! Posters of the First World War” will be on view in the West Hall of the Library building at The Huntington from Aug. 2 through Nov. 3, 2014.
The exhibition is presented in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the war, which involved the world’s major economic powers of the time, and took the lives of some 9 million combatants. More than 70 million military personnel were involved in the war with major powers such as England, France, and the United States on one side and Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire on the other.
Drawn from the prints and ephemera collections at The Huntington, “Your Country Calls!” features 55 colorful vintage posters created to shape and influence national identity, build unity across international borders, and mobilize citizens into action for the collective effort to win the war.
World War I posters are part of The Huntington’s extensive collection of 20th-century graphic material. While doing research for the exhibition, David Mihaly, Jay T. Last Curator of Graphic Arts and Social History at The Huntington, came across more than 700 posters from the war, which he had to winnow down for the exhibition. The final selection includes rare posters, including a pro-Austrian fundraising piece as well as well-known American classics like “Uncle Sam Wants You.”
“When World War I began, posters were already powerful advertising tools and a successful medium of artistic expression,” Mihaly says. “They were able to be printed quickly and inexpensively, making posters the ideal choice for spreading wartime propaganda.”
Before the war, American and European artists had been skillfully combining advertising with graphic design. At no time was this more prevalent than in the 1890s, when works promoting products, publications, and special events elevated posters to a recognizable art form that not only was displayed as outdoor publicity but also was exhibited in galleries and collected by an international market.
Soon after opposing European powers declared war on July 28, 1914, a new wartime communications platform was launched: widespread, organized propaganda in the form of posters. From the early recruiting campaigns to the reconstruction movements of 1920, the poster raised popular awareness of current events and encouraged personal involvement and action. “Through the collaborative efforts of advertising experts, artists, and printers, these posters vividly document the meaning and memory of the First World War in both subtle and pervasive ways,” Mihaly says.
“Your Country Calls!” is organized into six sections that explore enlistment, fundraising, labor and conservation, relief efforts, inspirational figures, and posters before the war. Many examples on view are from England, France, and the United States. Other nations represented include Belgium, Canada, and Italy.
“These works are so stunning, powerful, and engaging, that it’s really no surprise they aroused quick and committed responses in their day,” says Mihaly, “and elicit similar reactions today.”
The exhibition also will explore the artists behind the posters. These men and women worked as a volunteer army of illustrators, creating poster art for government publicity departments and private charities. They were accomplished artists before the war with names recognizable to the public, including James Montgomery Flagg, Charles Dana Gibson, and Edward Penfield in the United States; Francisque Poulbot in France; and Alfred Roller in Austria-Hungary.
This exhibition is made possible by the Robert F. Erburu Exhibition Endowment.
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Thea M. Page, 626-405-2260, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Blackburn, 626-405-2140, email@example.com
[EDITOR’S NOTE: High-resolution digital images available on request for publicity use.]
About The Huntington
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution serving scholars and the general public. More information about The Huntington can be found online at huntington.org.
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Enlist / On Which Side of the Window Are You?, United States, 1917, Laura Brey (dates unknown), color lithograph, 38 ¾ × 25 ¾ in. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
Wake Up, America! Civilization Calls Every Man Woman and Child!, United States, 1917, James Montgomery Flagg (1877–1960), color lithograph, 42 × 28 in. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
I Want You for U.S. Army, United States, 1917, James Montgomery Flagg (1877–1960), color lithograph, 42 × 32 in. The Huntington Library, Art Galleries, and Botanical Gardens, gift of Charles Heartwell.
You / Buy a Liberty Bond Lest I Perish, United States, 1917, Charles Raymond Macauley (1871–1934), color lithograph, 40 ¼ × 29 ¾ in. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, gift of Charles Heartwell.
Und Ihr? (And You?), Austria, 1917, Alfred Roller (1864–1935), color lithograph, 39 ¼ × 26 ½ in. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
Hunger Breeds Madness, United States, 1918, Emil Grebs (1877–1964), color lithograph, 32 × 22 in. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, gift of Charles Heartwell.
военный 5 1/2 % заемъ (5 1/2% War Loan), United States, ca. 1916, artist unknown, color lithograph, 28 × 42 in. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
Teamwork Builds Ships, United States, ca. 1918, William Dodge Stevens (1870–1942), color lithograph, 36 × 50 in. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.