Portfolio 3: Politics and Propaganda
Because it offers the possibility for inexpensive and rapid dissemination of images, printmaking has ever been a perennial tool of political interests and causes. Today historians recognize political ephemera as a sensitive index of the changing winds of opinion and ideology in societies past. From propaganda posters to drawings by contemporary editorial cartoonists to designs for national monuments, the Library's collection is the most extensive existing resource for the comparative study of the political uses of art.
James Gillray. The Grand Coronation Procession of Napoleone the Ist Emperor of France, from the Church of Notre-Dame. Decr. 2d. 1804. Etching with watercolor on wove paper. Published by Hannah Humphrey, London, January 1, 1805.
James Gillray was among the most popular, prolific,
revered, and reviled print satirists of the golden age of
English caricature, which lasted from 1770 to 1820. During
this period, revolution rocked France, bringing the
brilliant and charismatic military leader Napoleon Bonaparte
to power, and sending shock waves of fear and anxiety across
the Channel. Bonaparte became a favorite target of British
satirists, and Gillray responded in characteristically
spectacular fashion with this parody of the pomp and
ceremony surrounding the imperial coronation. The work augments the Library's collection of almost 10,000 British satirical prints assembled in Windsor Castle
by a succession of British monarchs, from George III onward,
and acquired by the Library in 1920.
(Caroline and Erwin Swann Memorial Fund Purchase)
Thomas W. Strong. Union. Wood-cut printed in colors on paper, 1848.
From early on, American presidential campaigns bore a
striking resemblance to another popular spectacle: the
circus. Mexican war hero Zachary Taylor's 1848 campaign
borrowed a leaf from the circus publicists' book by
introducing to the pageantry of the political contest large
colorful woodcut posters. This example, the earliest known
presidential campaign poster, was produced even before
Taylor clinched the Whig party's nomination. Taylor's
celebrity was so great at the time that the artist did not
feel compelled to even include the candidate's name on the
work. (Transfer, U.S. Copyright Office)
Käthe Kollwitz. Aufruhr (Uprising). Etching, drypoint, and aquatint on wove paper, 1899.
Much of the art of modern social protest traces its roots to
the work of German artist Kathe Kollwitz. One of a cycle of
prints and drawings which the youthful Kollwitz produced on
the theme of peasant revolt, her impassioned Uprising
hearkened back to the Bauernkrieg (literally, "farmers'
war") of the sixteenth century while portraying the dire
straits of agricultural laborers in contemporary Germany.
(Pennell Fund purchase)
Boardman Robinson. Europe 1916. Lithographic crayon, ink and gouache on paper, 1916.
World War I was viewed by American socialists as the product
of international competition between industrial capitalists.
Artists like Boardman Robinson, John Sloan, and others used
the leftist journal The Masses as their platform to take an
adamantly pacifist stance amid mounting bloodshed in Europe
and the inexorable drift of American public opinion toward
involvement in the conflict. The Library's collection of
American political drawings is the most extensive in
existence, numbering over eight thousand original works.
(Ben and Beatrice Goldstein Foundation Collection. Caroline
and Erwin Swann Memorial Fund purchase)
James Montgomery Flagg. I Want You for the U.S. Army. Offset lithograph, 1917.
Flagg's memorable and marvelously intrusive recruiting
poster was produced under the auspices of the Division of
Pictorial Publicity of the Committee on Public Information
during World War I. Flagg was one of an army of American
illustrators mobilized by Charles Dana Gibson for the war
effort. Under Gibson's direction, the Division was
extraordinarily successful in galvanizing American public
opinion in favor of U.S. involvement in the European
conflict, shoring up Woodrow Wilson's effort to make the
world safe for democracy.
(Gift of the Talbot County Public Library)
Leni Riefenstahl. Erwin Huber war bester Europäer im Olympischen Zehnkampf / Erwin Huber was the leading European in the Olympic Decathlon. Gelatin silver print, 1936.
The outstanding German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl is today
remembered chiefly for her work in support of the Third
Reich. Riefenstahl produced and presented to Adolph Hitler
at Christmas 1936 an album of still photographs of scenes
from the summer 1936 Olympiad. The album, including this
image of the German discus thrower Erwin Huber, is now part
of the Library's collections. It documents the creation of
Riefenstahl's award-winning film Olympia, and the cult of
sport and physical fitness which was fundamental to Nazi
ideology. (Transfer, Department of Defense)
P. Sokolov-Scalia. The Result of Fascist Culture. Poster, hand-stenciled with letterpress text, 1939.
The Soviet news agency TASS played a crucial role in
supporting armed resistance to the Nazi invasion of the USSR
in 1939. Massive German armored forces easily overwhelmed
Soviet border defenses and rolled to the gates of Moscow
itself, before being turned back by Allied soldiers.
Weekly, TASS issued posters designed to stoke patriotic
fervor and anti-German feeling, which it displayed in news
agency offices in the major Soviet cities. This work
decries Nazi crimes against Russian culture, asserting that
"Deathless is the genius of the Russian nation." The
Library owns what is probably the most extensive surviving
set of the TASS posters.
(Gift of the Packer Outdoor Advertising Company)
Paul Szep. Vietnam Specters. India ink on scratchboard. Published in the Boston Globe, 1967. [Not currently available due to copyright restrictions.]
During the 1960s, extensive news coverage of the Vietnam
War contributed to growing antiwar sentiment in the United
States. The strength of that sentiment divided the nation
and the Democratic party, and convinced President Lyndon
Baines Johnson to withdraw from the 1968 election campaign.
Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Paul Szep dramatically
captured the political mood and created a powerful and
unforgettable image in this depiction of LBJ haunted by the
ghosts of dead American soldiers.
(Caroline and Erwin Swann Collection)
Maya Ying Lin. Vietnam Veterans Memorial Competition. Presentation panel in mixed media on paper, 1981.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, originally designed as a
student project by Maya Lin for her degree at Yale
University Architectural School, has become a profound
national symbol and a seminal piece of American monumental
architecture. Undertaken to heal a nation torn apart by the
controversial war, the competition attracted proposals from
thousands of veterans and architects. Lin envisioned a
black granite wall, in the shape of a V, on which the names
of the American military dead and missing would be
inscribed. The architect hoped that "these names,
seemingly infinite in number, [would] convey the sense of
overwhelming numbers, while unifying these individuals into
a whole." Since its unveiling, the work--popularly known
as "the wall"--has become a point of reference for all
American memorials. Maya Lin's drawing is included in the
archive of the competition presented to the Library by the
Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Committee. (Gift of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Committee)