For Home and Country: The Art of Wartime Propaganda - Mark Aro

This gallery contains an assortment of posters created during WW I representing America’s first major propaganda campaign. The campaign’s goal was to spread fear and rally support from the American people. Topics include war bonds to provide war relief, resource procedures for noncombatants at home and armed forces recruitment. 

This image depicts a snapshot of a soldier who has returned from war caught in an embrace with his adoring wife and child. The child smothers him with affections as the solider joyfully strains to look down into the adoring gaze of his wife. The wife stares awe-struck into her husband’s face as she unconsciously fiddles with the sole Distinguished Service Cross medal that is pinned to the soldier’s chest. Lastly, a trophy of a German soldier’s helmet is connected to a string that wraps up and across the soldier’s chest and shoulder. All of these elements point to the heroic stature of this returning soldier and the admiration of his loving family. “The Victory Liberty Loan was the fifth and final war bond put into action for the relief of World War I” (Carbon, 2012) This particular bond was enacted after the war had finished and it was intended to support troops until they could safely return home. (Carbon, 2012)
This image intentionally plays on the fears of the American people. The vulnerable naked female child with her shoes still on suggests that she had clothes, but they were taken from her. Her shoes are buckled, but her socks are askew lending to the overall state and disarray of the child’s condition. The strong hand of Lady Liberty breaks wraps around the child suggesting safety. The hand holding the torch sits out in front of the child as the flame radiates upward into golden rays drawing attention to the words “Save your Child.” The child’s arm reaches around Lady Liberty’s hand holding it for comfort and security. The slogan and text are designed to instill the fear that one might expect from a dictatorship and assure the American people that “if” they buy War Savings Stamps, they will save their children from poverty and the negative fallout associated with a non-democratic government. Artistically the nearly monochromatic rendering of the child and Lady Liberty’s hand contrasts against the bright blue sky. The heavy outline on the hand and child draw our attention to those two elements as the key topics of this image and tie them together, suggesting that the hope for this child is with Lady Liberty.
In this image Uncle Sam stand stoically while holding up a young girl in one arm and with the other he holds out a paper with the WSS initials (War Savings Stamps) emblazoned on it. Her position is elevated above his stating that he is lifting her up. The Girls gaze is not at the paper, but down and off in the attitude of thoughtfulness. Uncle Sam’s posture is upright and confident, but his expression is matter-of-fact as his gaze falls downward toward a boy standing in front of him. The boy’s posture is erect with shoulders back and an upturned chin and confident expression expressing the attitude that he will accept this charge. The overall theme of this image is one of togetherness and cooperation supporting the text that pleas directly to BOYS and GIRLS encouraging them to help Uncle Sam Win the War, suggesting that if the children just save their quarters and buy WSS, then they will play a big part in winning the War.
In this image the WSS (War Savings Stamp) is literally the ammunition that feeds from the foreground upwards into the distant gun of American Soldiers, suggesting that if the American people don’t keep their pledge, the soldiers will run out of bullets. The dark blue figures of the soldiers are set against a blood red sky. The bright large yellow words “Help Them” are set in stark contrast against the dark terrain, completing this triadic color theme which creates a sense strong sense of urgency.
This image features a wounded American Solider, standing victorious over the body of a fallen enemy. His posture indicates that he is ready for action and the terrain and fallen soldier frame a hill that the American soldier stands on the crest of, implying that he is ready to attack. The words “Come On!” is the battle cry that fills the negative space directly above his bayonet. This somewhat analogous color palette is mostly made up of subtle and dark values with the exception of the plea to “buy more Liberty Bonds” emblazoned in red at the base of the image, framed against the darkened hillside.
To combat the food crisis in Europe, Americans were encouraged to plant and live off of the food from their own gardens. This allowed the government to export more of the nation’s resources overseas to support our allies and the millions who were starving in war torn counties. This confident woman is wearing an American flag dress. She is spreading seeds across plowed fields with an attitude that this task is easy and attainable. Her expression is one of pride conveying the message that by do this task, she is really helping those suffering from the hardships of war.
This poster was part of the continuing effort to encourage Americans to do everything they can to be self-reliant and to waste nothing; re-enforcing the message that our countries resources are needed overseas for those that are effected by the war happening at their doorsteps. This monochromatic image uses a winding chain of relief vehicles leading the eye toward the inspirational quote from Gen. Pershing. The Artist uses negative space and the white of the paper to establish a snowy frozen terrain, further supporting the dire circumstances that existed overseas.
This poster’s message is directed to children, building on the common theme that everyone should do their part in helping the war effort. The message is that children should replace wheat with other alternatives, leaving the wheat for our soldiers. The artistic theme here is reminiscent of children’s books published at that time. The artist uses design principles like focus and emphasis to draw attention to the child by placing him in a circle and setting the bowl up and outside of the circle. The child’s salute and eye line are directed toward the bowl, expressing a “We can do it” attitude.
This is one of the most iconic and best known images of our time; Uncle Sam is points directly to the viewer in a personal and direct manner. Versions of this image are still used today in commercial advertising. It exudes patriotism as if the country itself is calling us as individuals to fulfill some important task. This particular poster was designed to encourage enlistment in the NAVY, again, expressing the message that the country itself is reaching out to the individual viewing that poster and extending a personal call to serve.
For some the direct approach of Uncle Sam is not enough, so in this image the artist targets a man’s sex appeal. This coy and flirtatious young woman in a wind-swept sailor’s suit states that if she were a man, she would certainly join the Navy. The lettering expressing this message is loose and free floating adjacent to the playful pose of her figure. Below the girl and Just above the text “UNITED STATES NAVY” there is a clear line of blocky bold text that states “BE A MAN AND DO IT”, suggesting that if they didn’t join then girls like this would not be interested in them.
Credits: All media
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