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War & Propaganda
44 powerful images from World War I and World War II.

While most advertising posters implore action from their viewers, propaganda posters must incite a response with a sense of urgency and avoidable consequences. Whether designed for recruitment, conservation, patriotism, or women’s contributions, these images harness the power of emotion as well as the impetus of political action.

51. Liberty Enlightening the World. 1883.
24 x 34 3/4 in./61 x 88.2 cm
Est: $3,000-$4,000

This is the first officially sanctioned view of the Statue of Liberty, issued three years prior to her 1886 assembly and unveiling, and it was endorsed by the Statue Committee. Though Lady Liberty had already been on display throughout Manhattan and Philadelphia, funding the installation proved difficult. James G. Batterson was one of several advocates who took fundraising into his own hands; as both the founder of the Travelers Insurance Co. and the contractor responsible for the statue’s base, he killed two birds with one stone in this promotion. This also gave him the opportunity to liken his own company to the grandeur of “Liberty Enlightening the World,” as she was originally called. The text at bottom left proudly reads: “The Travelers of Hartford is the only large accident company on this continent, and the largest in the world, and best of life companies.” According to Jay Last, this printing firm “produced high-quality lithographed book illustrations, posters, and trade cards using sophisticated color reproduction techniques” (Color Explosion, p. 46). Upon completion of installation, Currier and Ives would produce a remarkably similar lithograph that became quite popular—but this is the first incarnation, and incredibly rare!

54. Hun Submarine. ca. 1918.
By Charles Buckles Falls (1874-1960)
27 1/2 x 41 3/4 in./69.8 x 106 cm
Est: $1,000-$1,200

Although it could almost be mistaken for an early iPod advertisement, this World War I design seeks men with radio experience to join the Navy and aid in monitoring enemy communication. Theofiles calls this poster “scarce.”

56. I Want You for U.S. Army. 1917.
By James Montgomery Flagg (1870-1960)
29 7/8 x 40 3/8 in./76 x 102.5 cm
Est: $7,000-$9,000

Although Flagg was already a successful and prolific illustrator by the time World War I started, this poster was to become “his greatest public triumph.” He used himself as a model, and the work was “originally used on a Leslie’s Magazine cover in late 1916, and was quickly adopted by the Army when the war broke out. All told nearly 5 million were printed in both world wars” (Theofiles, p. 9).

59. The Girl on the Land / Y.W.C.A. ca. 1918.
By Edward Penfield (1866-1925)
29 3/4 x 24 3/4 in./75.4 x 62.8 cm
Est: $1,400-$1,700

Since “an army runs on its belly” and “food will win the war,” this was one of many appeals to work the land on behalf of the effort to win World War I. This time, however, it’s a solicitation for the Y.W.C.A., created by the great illustrator Edward Penfield, depicting four clean-faced girls in uniform heading home after a day’s harvest.

60. Irishmen / Avenge the Lusitania. 1915.
20 x 30 1/8 in./50.6 x 76.5 cm
Est: $2,500-$3,000

The sinking of the RMS Lusitania was one of the most shocking moments of World War I; never had an enemy ship torpedoed a passenger liner carrying civilians from neutral countries during wartime on such a large scale. Here, as the fated ship sinks rapidly into the water and bodies are strewn in the foreground, young men of Ireland are asked to join a local regiment and avenge those 1,200 lives lost. The artist’s initials appear to be W. E. T. This is the finest condition of this poster we’ve seen yet!

63. More Ships / Send the Eagle's Answer. ca. 1918.
By James H. Daugherty (1889-1974)
39 3/8 x 59 1/8 in./100 x 150 cm
Est: $1,400-$1,700

This stunning work blends tropes of industrial power with early Modernist color schemes and compositions for a total effect that is awe-inspiring. “By the summer of 1918, the Emergency Fleet Corporation had a great array of shipbuilding facilities under its direction, including the huge Hog Island shipyard near Philadelphia, which could launch seventy-eight ships at once. The country was fast approaching the goal of launching one-hundred ships a day, and it reached a total of ninety-five on the fourth of July” (Rawls, p. 77). This poster was published by the Emergency Fleet Corporation in Washington, D.C.

66. Gee!! I Wish I Were a Man. 1918.
By Howard Chandler Christy (1873-1952)
26 3/4 x 41 in./68 x 104 cm
Est: $1,400-$1,700

MoMA featured this world-famous Christy poster in its exhibition “Designing Modern Women 1890-1990,” which ran from October 2013-October 2014. They wrote of it, “In World War I, the front-line was not viewed as a place fit for a woman. While kept away from direct combat, however, women were a valuable asset in recruiting men to the navy. The winsome pin-up in ‘Gee!! I Wish I Were a Man’ (modeled by Mrs. E. LeRoy Finch) sports a fluttering naval uniform; the whole look and chatty tone was extremely effective in underscoring the masculine appeal of serving soldiers. Here was a woman worth fighting for. The poster was admired for its American ‘punch’ and ‘air of glad youth which came like a Spring wind over our war-weary spirits.'”

74. Buy War Bonds. 1942.
By Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945)
30 x 40 1/2 in./76.2 x 102.7 cm
Est: $1,700-$2,000

This iconic World War II propaganda poster was one of the first advertisements printed for the first war bonds drives in early 1942. Uncle Sam, dramatically rising from the clouds, points toward the audience in demand of war bond investment, while fighter planes and soldiers dash across the sky above and field below.

79. Knock the “Heil” Out of Hitler / GMC.
30 x 39 1/2 in./76.2 x 100.2 cm
Est: $800-$1,000

Oh, that Hitler! What a buffoon! Even without the luxury of time, a bit of humor—mixed in equal parts with outrage and hatred, naturally—certainly can go a long way towards empowering people with regard to their fears and loathings. To that end, this unnamed artist combined a bit of clever word play with a cartoonish pratfall involving a GMC military vehicle and clumsy old Adolph to generate some humorous wartime commercialism. The poster itself was produced by GMC not only to promote victory, but also its military trucks at a point in history when being part of a war effort wasn’t viewed as a dubious distinction.

82. Hasten the Homecoming. 1945.
By Norman Rockwell (1849-1978)
20 x 28 7/8 in./50.8 x 73.3 cm
Est: $1,200-$1,500

“For the Post cover of May 26, 1945, Rockwell painted a homecoming GI… This is hardly the adman’s image of the American Dream, but the welcome being accorded the returning soldier is no less exuberant for that… The GI himself hardly looks like a hardened veteran, but the enthusiasm of his reception tends to suggest that he has indeed returned from the front line. He seems a trifle stunned to find himself home. This is not exactly a heroic picture. The redheaded GI is not the representative of some abstract ideal. He may have been fighting for home and country, but we might suppose that his image of ‘country’ is virtually coexistent with his image of ‘home.’ It would seem, in fact, that for the most part Rockwell saw war as an interruption of home life—an unwanted, if necessary, disturbance of the status quo. Very few of his wartime paintings glorify the military life… [He] shows us how war affects the man in the street—the man who must contribute to the solutions without having contributed to the causes” (Rockwell’s America, p. 195-196). Originally produced as a painting, this image was also used as a Saturday Evening Post cover as well as a poster; here we see it once again, without the magazine’s logo.

88. World Conference on Soviet Jewry. 1983.
By M. Arama
19 x 26 7/8 in./48 x 68.2 cm
Est: $800-$1,000

1983 marked the Third World Conference on Soviet Jewry. While the two previous iterations were held in Brussels, this one took place in Jerusalem, and was attended by Israeli President Yitzhak Navon along with other political leaders, lawyers, and activists. The goal of these events was to support the Jewish population in the Soviet Union at a time when tensions between the East and West were high.

92. Black Power / White Power. 1967.
By Tomi Ungerer (1931-2019)
19 3/4 x 28 in./50.2 x 71.2 cm
Est: $1,200-$1,500

“Black Power/White Power” is an intentionally uncomfortable design that zeroes in on American racial conflicts of the 1960s—but, as we’ve all realized in recent years, those issues are far from resolved. This poster is perhaps more relevant than ever, but Ungerer never could have imagined that when he designed this in 1967. The image is “Ungerer’s graphic response to racial injustice. Now an icon of political posters, this inflammatory image targets not simply racism against African Americans, but extremism on both sides. Of [his political posters] Ungerer observes, ‘I create political drawing because I feel the need for it. Because I am angry’” (Ungerer/All in One, p. 99).

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