A few weeks ago I visited an exhibition, Agitation and Propaganda Soviet Political Posters 1918-1929 at the Frye Art Museum. While there, I happened to hear one of their museum docent talk about a particular poster in the exhibition, Have You Volunteered? by the Russian artist Dmitry Moor. The poster she was discussing looked very similar to a poster most of us know… the I Want You for U.S. Army poster by the American artist, James Montgomery Flagg. The docent mentioned the similarity as well as the fact that Flagg was inspired by an earlier poster, Lord Kitchener Wants You by the English artist, Alfred Leete.
All of these posters have a great deal in common. Each of these posters were created using a national hero to inspire people to volunteer to serve their country in a time of war.
In 1914, Alfred Leete created Lord Kitchener Wants You showing Britain’s well-known Secretary of State for War pointing forward and declaring “Join Your Country’s Army!” At this point, Britain was involved in World War I and needed to recruit enlistees to its volunteer based army. This artwork was produced originally as a magazine cover but due to its popularity it was reproduced as postcards and recruitment posters. The publication of this magazine cover coincided with the highest number of volunteers and became an iconic symbol of World War I.
The United States entered World War I in 1917 and James Montgomery Flagg created I Want You for U.S. Army as a magazine cover. The image of Uncle Sam encouraging recruitment was also very popular — over 4 million copies of this poster were printed between 1917 and 1918.
The last poster, Have You Volunteered? by Dmitry Moor is featured in Frye’s current exhibition. This poster was commissioned two years after Russia’s Tsarist autocracy was overthrown by Vladimir Lenin’s Bolshevik party.
Each of these posters was considered to be very successful in encouraging men to enlist in their country’s military.
All three of these pieces were created during a period when print publication was the primary medium for public communications. Today’s advertising campaigns could not successfully rely on simply using print materials. Successful campaigns now rely less on print and use other methods — television, radio, email campaigns, social media (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, etc) to spread their message.
Agitation and Propaganda Soviet Political Posters 1918-1929 closes on April 3, 2016. Visit the Frye Museum to see Have You Volunteered? in person.Tags:Graphic Design, Museums, Posters