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War & Propaganda
22 powerful designs.

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.

94. Gee!! I Wish I Were a Man. 1918.
By Howard Chandler Christy (1873-1952)
27 x 41 in./68.6 x 104.1 cm
Est: $2,000-$2,500

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.'”

97. I Want You For the Navy. 1917.
By Howard Chandler Christy (1873-1952)
27 1/8 x 41 1/4 in./68.7 x 104.8 cm
Est: $1,200-$1,500

This sultry Christy girl was created at precisely the same time as Flagg’s Uncle Sam, and both are saying “I Want You”—but with ever-so-slightly different inflections. Not only is this an interesting comparison to Christy’s “Gee!! I Wish I Were a Man” (see No. 94), but the sheer sexiness with which she dons the sailor’s dress uniform anticipates the Van Heusen shirt campaigns of many years later.

102. For Action Enlist in the Air Service. 1918.
By Otto Cushing (1871-1942)
18 3/8 x 24 5/8 in./46.8 x 62.5 cm
Est: $1,000-$1,200

Otto Cushing was not only the art editor at the Herald-Tribune in Europe and a cartoonist for Life magazine, but was also a captain in the Army Air Service when he designed this poster. He shows his recruits turning the propeller of a Standard J-1 aircraft to start its engine, thereby underscoring the notion of action in the slogan. Just one year prior, Congress authorized $640 million for the U.S. Army’s air arm—the greatest sum ever dedicated to one program at that time.

107. Coming Right Up! 1945.
By James Montgomery Flagg (1870-1960)
24 x 35 1/8 in./61 x 89 cm
Est: $1,700-$2,000

This very rare and later design by Flagg shows him championing portraiture in the form of an eager aviator ready to take to the skies. He waves at a group of P-38 Lightnings—which were, curiously, out of use by 1945.

108. Help Britain Finish the Job! ca. 1940.
By Marc Stone
19 3/8 x 29 3/8 in./49.3 x 74.5 cm
Est: $1,000-$1,200

Issued by the British government, this rare poster shows infantrymen racing past a machine gun and toward surrendering German troops. The message is that the war is almost won—but your help is needed to complete the mission.

112. Talleres Graficos de la Nacion. 1942.
By Salvador Pruneda (1895-1988)
38 1/2 x 29 7/8 in./98 x 76 cm
Est: $1,200-$1,500

The Graphic Workshops of the Nation got its start in Mexico in the 1880s before becoming a government branch in the 1920s. Their work—which continues to this day—focuses generally on benefiting the working class and promoting cultural progress. Here, a printer in his shop is paired with text that reads: “Mexicans: production is the base of victory.” Above his shoulder, a poster reads: “The printing press is a fearsome weapon,” and to prove the point, another poster below shows a menacing combatant with text ascribed to Adolph Hitler: “Knowledge would corrupt my youth.” Presumably, the latter poster was not produced by this lithographer, but rather serves to underscore the potency and sensitivity of public messaging. Rare!

113. United. 1944.
By Frederick Henri Kay Henrion (1914-1990)
20 x 26 1/4 in./50.9 x 66.5 cm
Est: $2,000-$2,500

Although no official title exists for this design, the message is clear: the Allies have destroyed Hitler. Each flagged arm—representing the United States, Britain, France, and Russia—tear apart a swastika against a stormy and otherworldly background. Born in Germany, Henrion went to Paris, where he studied poster design with Paul Colin. Being Jewish, he fled to the United Kingdom following the Nazis’ rise to power. He was interned on the Isle of Man as an alien, but gradually wooed both the Ministry of Information and the U.S. Office of War Information with his graphic capabilities. Along with his propaganda work, he created a number of corporate identities for brands like KLM, and also designed exhibitions around the world.

114. Staline Aussi. ca. 1951.
31 1/8 x 46 3/4 in./79 x 118.8 cm
Est: $1,400-$1,700

Published by the Socialist Federation of the Seine, this poster denounces the many despicable actions of fascist regimes while calling out Stalin specifically. The list of atrocities concludes with: “The French Communist Party is no longer a workers’ party, it is the Fifth Column of Stalinist totalitarian imperialism. Workers, beware! No collaboration, neither with fascist reaction nor with Stalino-fascism. With the Socialists, preserve your homes by fighting for Liberty.”

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