ANDERSON, Ind. – From Jan. 21 through Feb. 18, the Jessie C. Wilson Galleries at Anderson University will exhibit more than 35 original World War II posters. The exhibition includes works by influential artists and designers, including Jean Carlu, Lester Beall, Norman Rockwell and Ben Shan.
This collection of posters offers viewers an opportunity to examine a time in American history and consider the role visual artists served in the war effort. Posters proved to be a form of visual communication throughout the 20th century, especially during World War II, when the U.S. government used them to enlist support of its citizens.
Of special interest is the variety of approaches to poster design including photography, typography, and collage integrated with persuasive messages to encourage support of the war effort.
The posters also show the influences of period art movements. Jean Carlu’s posters reflect both his European heritage and the impact of Cubism. Lester Beall, an American designer, studied European avant-garde art and design, and his use of photomontage echoes works by Russian designers like Gustav Klutsis.
The posters also employ well-known propaganda techniques. Illustrated imagery was most frequently naturalistic, and texts and symbols were kept simple to easily communicate the central message to the viewer. Phrases like “Loose lips sink ships,” and “He’s watching you,” had a flair for the dramatic, appealing to viewers’ emotional perceptions of the war efforts.
Now a part of the Wilson Galleries’ permanent collection, these World War II posters originally hung in the Cummins Engine Factory in Columbus, Ind. During the war years these posters encouraged factory workers to maximize their efforts on the home front. The workers were often referred to as “production soldiers,” and the posters affirmed the importance of this role, declaring messages that forged a direct relationship between production and patriotism.
When the war drew to a close, Mary Dugan, the wife of a foreman at the factory, kept the posters preserved in storage. Shortly after the 50th anniversary of World War II, the collection was donated to the Wilson Galleries by her granddaughter, Kathleen Dugan, a painter and professor of art in the Department of Art+Design at AU.