World War I and World War II Posters: A Persuasive Art

American posters from World War I and II are the subject of World War I and II Posters: A Persuasive Art,  a concise retrospective of the period and genre. The poster art produced during both wars demonstrates the diverse talent and innovation of American artists and illustrators. Taken from the permanent collection, the posters exhibited demonstrate a class of printed work which has not previously been on view at the Norton Simon Museum.

Poster art developed rapidly during World War I (1914-1918), quickly becoming the most effective means of communicating information and propoganda to a broad public. The icon-like images evoked strong emotion from the American public, and brought people in touch with the European conflict. Opinion was manipulated through slogans enhanced by the renderings of contemporary illustrators and classically trained artists. Fine artists such as Howard Chandler Christy, James Montgomery Flagg, and Joseph Pennell lent their expertise to poster production, and through their talents, the efforts of a volunteer artists committee were guided and refined. The resulting images fortified a nation to mobilize in a common goal with its allies.

By World War II (1939-1945), posters were no longer the pre-eminent vehicle for the transmission of information; technological advances such as radio and newsreels had greater public appeal. Ultimately, these technologies did not succeed in supplanting the poster medium. Instead, the artists, radically effected by contemporary movements in art, redesigned their posters for a more sophisticated audience.