War posters 1914-1918 A Weapon of Color and Paper
May 14 to October 1, 2017, daily 09:00 to 18:00
Castle riding school, HlubokánadVltavou 144
No sooner had WWI broke out than posters became a tool of propaganda and promotion under the open sky. They were issued by government agencies, political parties, charities, non-government organizations and corporations as implements of propaganda used to promote the war causes and to strengthen patriotism and social coherence. Wartime posters are disseminators of direct and simple messages. They appeal to the sense and sensibility of the public, trying primarily to incite the nations to action. With the war going on, posters gradually developed into an effective weapon with psychological impact. They were intended to alternately elate and scare the general public with urgent messages conveyed in bright colors.
Charles Higham, one of the most successful journalist of the wartime, said that posters improved the lives of people not only by informing on new products and new patterns of behavior, but also by their makeup alone. Progress achieved in transportation, hygiene, nutrition and work habits became a prerequisite for broadening the moral and aesthetic horizons of the nation. Having said that, he indirectly confirmed posters to be an example of a modern medium able to target the latest phenomenon, i.e. the masses.
At that time the graphic design of Austrian-Hungarian, German, French, English, Italian, Russian and later on also of the American posters reached a relatively high level and their visual appearance reflected mostly the national character. The design development was spearheaded particularly by German designers, whose posters were typical of concentrated, easily understandable and fully shaded flat colors applied in combination with a clear-cut headline rendered in a dense structure.
Conversely, in Britain and the United States prevailed painted illustrations wherein the headline was inserted by the printer himself. A different character can be observed, for instance, in French wartime posters. These rely on well mastered drawings of familiar icons rendered by distinguished artists and complemented by long and poetic texts. The countries at war had invariably included in their posters also the national symbols, specifically the German and American eagles, the French cockerel, the British lion and the Russian bear. Such symbols are pivotal to understanding the message and its social context.
Organized as one of the early presentations of wartime posters from the period of 1914 to 1918 held in our country, the exhibition offers first and foremost selected exhibits from a specialized collection kept in the Military Historical Archive in Prague and from a smaller convolute (or volume) of works gathered at the Imperial War Museum in London, with some items lent by private owners.
Jan Török, exhibition author & curator