THE ART OF WAR
American Poster Art 1941-1945
April 21—December 31, 2018
World War II confronted Americans with the greatest military challenge in their history. Victory required raising and equipping an armed force that grew to over 12 million and rallying tens of millions of civilians to serve on the war’s “Home Front.”
A mobilization of this size required publicity to inform and guide Americans about the war effort. The government used advertisements, radio programs, pamphlets, and films to do this. But its most sharply focused messages were delivered in colorful posters created by some the nation’s finest illustrators and graphic designers. Produced by the millions, they blanketed the country with warnings, advice, recommendations, and clarion calls on subjects ranging from war bonds and scrap drive to civil defense and rationing.
On April 21, 2018 the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum will open THE ART OF WAR: AMERICAN POSTER ART 1941-1945, a new special exhibition featuring over 150 colorful World War II posters. Drawn from the Library’s enormous collection of over 3000 wartime posters (one of the largest in the nation) they cover an array of topics that vividly illustrate the wide-ranging impact World War II had on American society.
The exhibit will spotlight the talented illustrators and graphic artists who created these posters for government agencies. A partial list includes Norman Rockwell, James Montgomery Flagg, N.C. Wyeth, Ben Shahn, Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss), Stevan Dohanos, Herbert Matter, and Leo Lionni. The exhibit will also feature special displays that relate the stories behind some of the best-known posters. These include J. Howard Miller’s famous “We Can Do It” poster with the figure of “Rosie the Riveter”, Norman Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” posters, and James Montgomery Flagg’s enduring image of Uncle Sam proclaiming “I Want You”. Other special displays will explore how poster designers depicted the enemy, how their work reflected conflicting ideas about the changing roles of women, how African Americans were represented, and how the image and words of President Roosevelt became incorporated into memorable wartime posters.