I hope readers don’t find it tedious, but my mind tends to run in certain courses and right now everything seems to be coming up propaganda posters, particularly from the World War I era. After the recent pieces on the work of Alexander Rodchenko and the early soviet constructivists, my mind – which is sort of like an organic version of stumbleupon.com – turned to what was going on in other countries at the same time. This conveniently tied in to a project I recently did for a political organization where I worked with images from the Liberty Bond drive posters released during World War I.
In the course of research for that project I visited a number of websites featuring posters from the first three decades of the 20th century and in the process I came on one really outstanding site specializing in propaganda posters from the First World War. WorldWar1Propaganda.com has a really outstanding, museum level collection of posters from that period. There are hundreds of posters, preserved in excellent quality scans and fairly high resolution. They’re watermarked, but for reference, research and design purposes that’s not much of a problem.
The selection on the site is varied and represents many different countries and themes of poster. There are sections arranged by nationality, but also thematic sections for things like bond drive posters, Red Cross posters, YMCA posters, rationing posters and a lot more. The Russian section is a bit weak, but they are well documented on other sites. For British and French and German posters the site is really outstanding and it has surprisingly strong collections for the British colonies like Australia and Canada.
Many of us are familiar with the propaganda posters of the Second World War, but artistically these earlier posters are much more interesting. Many of them have a romantic and idealized quality which is more appealing than the photography-influenced, heavier and more realistic styles of the Second World War. There are Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, Art Deco and even impressionist influences in many of the posters, coming out of a very fertile artistic era and reflecting the tastes of the contemporary audience.
Some of the posters in the collection are really unusual. They are glimpses of aspects of the war at home which we rarely see and a window on the society of the time. It should also be noted that the collection is not strictly limited to posters. Some of the images included are leaflets or magazine advertising which fit in the same general category of visual expressions of a propaganda message.
This is a site worth spending some of your time on. I wish there were museum-style sites this good for other artistic periods and movements.