Posters of the World Wars

Until 1914, the poster was considered to be a stepchild of "true" art. It was the tool of commercialism, too bright and gaudy to be used for the "serious" business of government.

When it quickly became evident that the masses needed to be motivated to join the war effort, the government changed its view on posters. Within weeks after World War I broke out, thousands of posters painted the streetscapes urging young men to voluntarily join the services and exhorting the public to give generously of their time and resources to the war effort. The results were phenomenal. Millions enlisted and the general populace willingly made tremendous personal sacrifices as one and all threw themselves behind the slogans and banners portrayed on these powerful, graphic posters.

In World War II, posters were used once again to unify the people behind the war. Their simple, direct appeal focused on the common goals of the war and changed our society in powerful ways.

The Blair-Murrah exhibition of the Posters of War chronicles the vivid, energetic art of these graphic posters from England, the U.S., France, and Russia. From recruiting young men and women, to urging women to share in the glory of war, these posters provide a fascinating look at our history and the way art can be used as a war tool.