Propaganda Posters from World War I America and Revolutionary Russia
February 20 through March 31, 1997
"War and Revolution" will compare and contrast the propaganda posters of the United States in World War I (1914-1918) with that of the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution and Civil War period (1918-1921). The show is assembled from the gallery's rich holdings which have been recently augmented by the purchase of two major collections.
American Posters during World War I
The WWI poster was most successful in the United States. In less than two years more than 2,500 designs and about 20 million posters were produced to convince America to abandon its isolationist policy and conduct a full scale war against Germany. The organization responsible for most of this was the Department of Pictorial Publicity, an all-volunteer group of 300 artists led by Charles Dana Gibson, the creator of the Gibson girl and the most highly paid artist in America. Through its posters, the DPP was instrumental in raising money (more than any other combatant in the war), building ships, recruiting troops, saving food and fuel, and marshaling relief efforts which helped to win the war.
Soviet Posters during the Bolshevik Revolution
At virtually the same time, Lenin was using the poster to conduct a very different kind of war. While WWI was primarily a distant war fought primarily in the factory and with the pocketbook in America, the Bolshevik Revolution was a bloody struggle for survival of an ideology and a faction. The exhibit will highlight the various Soviet agencies which directed Lenin's propaganda efforts during the Civil War, in all producing over 3000 poster designs in four years. Its most important artists were Alexander Apsit, Dimitri Moor, Viktor Deni and Nikolai Kochergin, who created many popular slogans, icons and satirical caricatures of the revolution - often in less than a day.
Russian Telegraph Agency (ROSTA) Windows
The show will also include another Soviet innovation, the so-called Russian Telegraph Agency (ROSTA) windows. These were cartoon-like stenciled posters which summarized the news and were displayed in shop windows throughout Moscow during the Civil War years. These works by the great poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, Ivan Malyutin and Mikhail Cheremnykh are extraordinary in their rarity, wit and effectiveness.
Despite many similarities, the posters from the two struggles show major differences. The American poster is remarkable for its heroic innocence and its Madison Avenue appeal; the Soviet poster for its biting sarcasm and raw immediacy. The air of moral superiority seen in the American posters is more than matched by the revolutionary idealism of the Bolsheviks, who attack priests and capitalists while idealizing the worker.
"This is a powerful juxtaposition of the propaganda of the two major powers of the twentieth century," states Jim Lapides, gallery owner. "Both styles were so successful that they became the models for what was to follow in later conflicts of the century. We are fortunate that these historically important and graphically powerful images are still available and very affordable." Many posters in the show are less than $1000. "These images represent as good a value as can be found in the poster field today."
View all War and Propaganda posters