View all images from the Imperial War Museum: Posters of Conflict collection
The Posters of Conflict project was a joint venture between the Imperial War Museum and the Manchester Institute for Research and Innovation in Art and Design (MIRIAD) at Manchester Metropolitan University, and was awarded over £300,000 through the Arts and Humanities Research Board Resource Enhancement Scheme. (On 1st April 2005 the AHRB was renamed the Arts and Humanities Research Council.) The three-year project aimed to catalogue, digitally photograph and publish online around 10,000 posters from the Museum's internationally important collection.
The Imperial War Museum's poster collection is the largest and most comprehensive collection of its type in Britain, documenting the social, political, ethnic and cultural aspirations of warring nations from the First World War to more recent conflicts. The collection includes work by leading twentieth-century designers from Britain and abroad, and is an essential resource for looking at the development of mass communication, propaganda, publicity, commercial art and graphic design.
Recruiting posters issued during the first two years of the First World War include Alfred Leete's famous design of Lord Kitchener. Other major categories cover war savings, charities and the role of women. Second World War posters reflect British social history of the 1940s when official notices and restrictions regulated daily life. Posters by Abram Games and Fougasse illustrate the increased sophistication of British poster design. Commonwealth material from both World Wars consists of locally designed and printed posters and those produced in Britain for distribution to the countries of the Empire. More recent posters include Cold War anti-nuclear campaigns and peace protests.
This important section shows the high quality of German and Austro-Hungarian graphic design during the First World War period. Major designers represented include Ludwig Höhlwein, Lucien Bernhard, Hans Rudi Erdt and Biro. In addition to war loan and charity posters the collection includes socio-political material from the German revolutionary period.
There is a small collection of German posters issued during the rise of National Socialism in the 1930s.
There is a comprehensive collection of First World War French material principally concerned with war savings and charities. This section is characterised by artists' posters and contains designs by Abel Faivre, Sem, Steinlen, Lucien Jonas and Poulbot. The Second World War collection is divided between Free French material and a small but interesting selection of Vichy regime posters promoting collaboration with Germany.
First World War posters date from 1917/1918 and cover recruiting, war savings and civilian war effort subjects. Well-known designs include James Montgomery Flagg's 'Uncle Sam' and work by Howard Chandler Christy. Second World War posters (1941 - 1945) emphasise American social and political values exemplified by Norman Rockwell's 'Four Freedoms' poster design.
There is a small selection of Tsarist posters and a larger collection of revolutionary posters dating from 1917 up to the 1930's. Second World War material includes a collection of hand-stencilled posters (rare in the UK) produced for the Soviet Union Telegraph Agency (TASS) and satirical anti-Nazi posters designed by the Kukryniksy group.
Most of the posters in the Museum's collection were published by governments and other official sources and special interest groups and were largely aimed at civilian populations. They were a powerful medium for influencing public opinion. In the widest sense they can all be viewed as propaganda, promoting an official viewpoint and justifying the need for wartime restrictions. The collection contains very little material that is overtly 'anti-enemy' negative propaganda. In general the posters emphasise the positive qualities of their own society and promote national identity.
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