WWI Posters--Rallying the Home Front

 

 On Display Oct. 7 – Dec. 31, 2017

This special exhibit of American propaganda posters commemorates the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into WWI. The U.S. government decided to use a popular artistic medium, the poster, to incite fear in its citizens of an unknown enemy on another continent. Some of the illustrations have become the most iconic American images ever made, such as James Montgomery Flagg’s stern image of Uncle Sam pointing to the viewer above the words, “I Want You for U.S. Army.” Be prepared for an emotionally powerful and artistically fascinating experience.

On July 28, 1914, World War I officially began when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. In Europe and beyond, country after country was drawn into the war by a web of alliances. It took three years, but on April 2, 1917, the U.S. entered the fray when Congress declared war on Germany. American citizens were not keen on entering the conflict, especially those with German ancestry who had no desire to support England and France. The U.S. government had to find a way to convince the American people that they must support the war effort without reservation.

Posters—which were so well designed and illustrated that people collected and displayed them in fine art galleries—possessed both visual appeal and ease of reproduction. They could be pasted on the sides of buildings, put in the windows of homes, tacked up in workplaces, and resized to appear above cable car windows and in magazines. And they could easily be reprinted in a variety of languages. The purpose of the American WWI poster was to get the reader to stop, look, and react.

To merge this popular form of advertising with key messages about the war, the U.S. government’s public information committee formed a Division of Pictorial Publicity in 1917. The chairman, George Creel, asked Charles Dana Gibson, one of the most famous American illustrators of the period, to be his partner in the effort. Gibson, who was president of the Society of Illustrators, reached out to the country’s best illustrators and encouraged them to volunteer their creativity to the war effort. These gifted artists produced remarkable works of graphic art which captured the emotional state of humanity.

Propaganda poster artwork took on many forms; in one instance the viewer could expect a tugging at the heart strings with images of rosy-cheeked mothers and children, optimistic soldiers in the prime of youth eager to fight for home and country, and the virginal, feminine ideals of liberty, justice, and America. Other posters were considered atrocity propaganda and depicted hard, guttural images portraying the enemy’s capacity for pure evil, violence and murder. One could not help but be moved to any number of emotions, from pity and fear, to pride and righteous indignation.

Despite the passage of 100 years—as well as many wars and disillusionment about them—these posters retain their power to make you stare. Good and evil are clearly delineated. The suffering is hard to ignore. With over fifty posters in the exhibit, be prepared to experience the reasons why this conflict in our history was called “the war to end all wars” and see for yourself how these posters essentially helped win that war.

The curator of WWI Posters—Rallying the Home Front is former Coshocton resident, Mike Falk. Mike has been collecting both WWI and WWII posters for over 30 years. He will present a program on WWI posters in the special exhibit gallery on Nov. 5th at 4:30 P.M. Other WWI programs include Anthem for Doomed Youth: Poetry Oct. 16th 7:00 P.M. and a book discussion on All Quiet on the Western Front, held at the Coshocton Public Library Nov. 6th 6:30 P.M



We thank our exhibit sponsors Auer Ace Hardware, Endsley Insurance Agency and Given-Dawson-Paisley Funeral Home.

 

 

  

 The Ohio Arts Council helped fund this event with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans.

Johnson Humrickhouse Museum
300 N. Whitewoman Street
Coshocton, OH 43812
740-622-8710
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