PhD Thesis: Chapter 2: Placing the British Experience of the Propaganda Poster in Context

This chapter builds on the conceptual aspects of propaganda and the poster discussed in the introduction, to foreground the British experience of propaganda. In particular, it compares the democratic experience of propaganda to the totalitarian experience. This chapter then continues by contextualising the British experience of the poster in the years leading up to the Second World War. This necessitates a brief investigation of the development of the poster world-wide, with a particular focus on European and avant-garde designs, which may have impacted on British designers. The poster is considered as both a commercial tool, and as a weapon in the government armoury, alongside other methods of communication and mass-media.

Propaganda is as old as history and several studies investigate propaganda through the ages.[1] In many minds propaganda is associated first and foremost with the Nazis,[2] then the Soviets,[3] and certainly with totalitarian states.[4] As we saw in the Introduction, propaganda was not only a tool of the totalitarian states. Propaganda itself is neutral, it is how it is used that is significant. The British had certainly used propaganda in the past, although whether it had been labelled as such is a different matter. Propaganda is not only transmitted through the medium of print, but through rituals, pageantry, symbolism, flags, music and parades, to name but some forms. Bartlett claims that it ‘has been customary for democratic countries to neglect official political propaganda until they are faced by some serious crisis’,[5] and that this therefore makes it extremely difficult for those who are called on to direct propaganda in times of crisis. With the changed nature of war, mass war, in the First World War, propaganda obtained a new significance.[6] It still took three years in the First World War before a Department for Information was formed in 1917, and it did not become a Ministry of Information (MOI) until 1918. Previously there was a variety of ‘agencies which – constantly merging and splitting – discharged the various functions related to morale, news, censorship and propaganda’.[7] The MOI was formed to instil some order into the chaos, and had been intended to control and influence opinion at home, and in allied, neutral and enemy countries.[8] The Nazis believed that the British experience of propaganda in the First World War was so good that Goebbels took it as his model for Nazi propaganda.[9]

Whereas totalitarian propaganda is often backed by violence, democracies need, at the very least, to give the impression that viewers have a choice.[10] The population had to be cajoled, encouraged and persuaded rather than being forced. The state needed co-operation from its populace.[11] Jackall describes the era from the Great War to the Cold War as ‘the axial age of propaganda’. Throughout this age state propaganda machines developed as major powers competed ‘for the allegiance and good will of their own civilian populations’. Democratic states needed civilian morale in order that ‘the vast industrial apparatus that produced ships, weapons and bombs and thus made total war possible’ could function.[12] Historians have argued that the disbanding of the MOI at the end of the First World War showed a distaste by the British for state propaganda, but discussions were still held in 1918-19 regarding the possible formation of information machinery to serve the whole of Whitehall.[13] Departmental publicity machinery grew in the interwar years. By 1939, virtually every Whitehall department possessed ‘some form of established information or publicity machinery’.[14] The Government recognised the need to use propaganda as ‘the service departments were under some pressure to maintain a good public image and satisfactory recruiting levels’. There was a recognition of the need for ‘effective advertising’, covering areas such as health education, road safety and telephones, in order to inform the public about new regulations, encourage them to take advantage of new services, and instruct them how to use them correctly.[15]

Although Lt. Commander D.S.E. Thompson wrote that ‘Propaganda is not properly understood in this country outside the ranks of the 5th Columnists and subversive organisations’,[16] in the inter-war years the advertising industry had increased in professionalism.[17] Studies increased knowledge of theories and methods of propaganda, although Grant would argue that most began with the assumption that it was dangerous, and therefore concentrated on providing remedies and antidotes to its power,[18] rather than in trying to discover means of utilising it. There was a fear that individual political parties would use propaganda for their own advancement, and therefore it was felt that the state should not participate in national propaganda. Investigations in persuasion were particularly focused upon attitude research in the 1920s and 1930s: ‘Emphasis was placed on conceptually defining attitudes and operationally measuring them’.[19] Propaganda has been studied as history, political science, psychology, sociology, and as a study of ideology.[20] Propaganda was, and is, used for a variety of reasons, in particular persuasion, education, information, celebration, encouragement, morale boosting, and identification of enemies. A variety of techniques of propaganda are used, in particular appeals to the emotions of hatred, fear, anger, guilt, greed, hope and love, and the appeal to the intellect.[21] Theoretical models were developed in the interwar years, and we discuss two of them here, the ‘magic bullet’ or ‘hypodermic needle’ model, and the ‘socially-mediated’ model.

In the 1920s the ‘magic bullet’ theory appeared to be popular (Model 1, Appendix 4), although O’Donnell claims that it was not as widely accepted by scholars as many academic studies indicate. The theory viewed human responses to the media as uniform and immediate, with E.D.Martin claiming that propaganda was offering ‘ready-made opinions’ to an ‘unthinking herd’. The theory was not based on empirical research, but on scientific discourses, which assumed that people were uniformly controlled by biologically based ‘instincts’, reacting more or less uniformly to ‘stimuli’.[22] Foucault ‘maintains that there is no unmediated access for the human mind to a genuinely knowable original and truthful reality’.[23] Research in the 1920s established that audience variables, such as the demographic background of the audience, influenced the way that people behaved.[24] In the 1930s Aldous Huxley recognised that propaganda ‘canalises an already existing stream’; it is only effective on those already in tune with the ideas expressed. Propaganda encourages its audience further along the direction that they are already moving, and reinforces partly formed ideas.[25] Brown echoes this, claiming that nobody can create emotions which are not already there. The propagandist ‘is limited to evoking or stimulating those attitudes suited to his purpose out of the total spectrum existing in his audience, attitudes which may be innate but are more usually socially-acquired’.[26] Propaganda can be successful if does not concern deeply rooted convictions. If it does not affect the audience too much, they do not care so much about the issues involved, although they need to be made to care deeply about the issues.[27] In other words, propagandists are drawing on long standing, pre-existing, discourses. In propaganda, suggestion cannot create, it can ‘only arouse, combine and direct tendencies which already exist’, as people will not ‘follow something that is genuinely opposed’ to their character.[28] In the 1940s, influenced by psychological discourses, these ideas were formalised, by Lazarsfeld (Columbia University), into the multi-step model, which illustrated audience variables (Model 2, Appendix 4).[29] Having briefly considered some of the propaganda theories, we now move on to consider some of the key propaganda devices identified.

The Institute for Propaganda Analysis (IPA) was formed in New York in 1937. Although disbanded in January 1942, soon after Pearl Harbor, it was influential, and its findings are still widely quoted in propaganda texts. Concerned about the threat of propaganda to the democratic way of life, the IPA published a monthly bulletin, in the second issue of which they established the seven common ‘devices’ of propaganda.[30] The first of these was ‘name calling’, which would give a bad name to items, ‘individuals, groups, nations, races, policies, beliefs and ideals’ (hereafter ‘product’) in the hope that the audience would reject, rather than rationally consider, them.[31] The second was ‘glittering generalities’, where viewers were expected to associate, without questioning, products with a concept such as ‘democracy’. This would assume that the propagandist understood the term in the same way as the viewer.[32] The third was ‘transfer’, whether the authority, sanction and prestige of something the audience was likely to respect or revere (such as science or religion) was applied to the product being promoted. This could be used both positively and negatively as, for example, the Nazis racist policies were rationalised by both science and religion.[33] Bartlett notes that social prestige could be externally conferred onto propaganda from a ‘social institution which is already widely revered in their society, or which has already established some permanent character of unchallenged authority’.[34] Symbolism used in propaganda was largely borrowed from established institutions, rather than being a product of the propaganda itself.[35]

The fourth propaganda device of the IPA was the ‘testimonial’, where a respected or hated person would endorse or refute a product.[36] Often a form of celebrity endorsement, the IPA asked viewers to question what qualifications such celebrities had for giving an endorsement.[37] The fifth was ‘plain folks’, where the propagandist would attempt to convince the audience that their ideas were good because they are just ‘one of the people’.[38] For example, in the Second World War, Churchill, unlike Hitler, generally appeared in public in civilian clothes, rather than a military uniform. The sixth was ‘card stacking’, which involved the selection and use ‘of facts and falsehoods, illustrations or distractions, and logical or illogical statements to give the best or the worst possible case for an idea, program, person or product’.[39] The seventh was the ‘band wagon’, which would appeal to the innate desire to ‘follow the crowd’. Viewers, usually within a particular group, would be shown that ‘everyone else is doing it’, and ask why they are not.[40]

Having established some of the debates surrounding the notion of propaganda and some of its key theories at the time of war, we now consider the poster as a tool of propaganda. The poster has an enduring value, as:

[b]ehind each poster lies two converging lines: the political or cultural development to which it refers, and the aesthetic development it represents. The poster itself is the point at which the two lines meet.[41]

As Anderson noted, the printed word shaped the past,[42] and by 1940 the contemporary world was a partially literate society where the printed word had ‘established very nearly everywhere an institutional authority’. Bartlett argues that people generally accepted, without question, what was read in newspapers, articles and books. Published pictorial art, ‘the poster, the photograph, the film’, may have ‘a similar and for the most part unquestioned authority’.[43] This suits propaganda, where a common trick is to replace all argument by statement, as the audience cannot be allowed to see another side to the argument, they cannot be allowed the possibility of reflection.[44]

This next section draws on the methodological framework outlined in chapter one to think about aspects of form and style. It sees poster design as an encoding through which ‘truths’ were produced, and form and style as social and political entities through which ‘power’ works. We will analyse the encoding of the visual in terms of the utilitarian, the disruption of traditional ideas, the political, and as a medium for transmitting ideas. Here, we will illustrate ways in which poster design disrupts notions of high art and images produced for the populace. This relates to one ‘contest’ between artists and designers over the power to define the poster and the way it later drew on older traditions of ‘high’ art. Here, we will trace the ‘institutionalisation’ of poster design in terms of groups’ power to produce posters. As the Introduction outlined, there is a wide ranging debate about the purpose of a poster, and indeed what constitutes a poster itself, is. This is partly dependent on the differing views as to what can be considered the predecessors and origins of the poster: ‘[i]n one sense the poster is a modern invention; in another it is as old as history.’ Some have identified forerunners and precedents for the poster. It ‘could be said that any pictorial representation publicly displayed has something of the poster in it, especially if the object is propaganda.’[45] This has led to diverse identifications such as cave paintings,[46] biblical precedents,[47] evidence from the previous ‘industrialised’ nations, [48] shop signs,[49] printed notices,[50] and political cartoons.[51] Most of these, however, were produced singly. It can be argued that the poster only became a truly modern mass medium in the nineteenth century, having developed as societies and technologies evolved.

It could be conceived as dangerous to impose an artificial unity on the many different contradictory movements that influenced poster design, appearing under the umbrella of modernity or modernism. Nevertheless, there are several key trends and ideas. These include the rejection of tradition; and the superiority of new ideas that stress the importance of novelty, change, immediacy, non-permanence, progress, and the importance of the future, often accompanied by secular and utopian beliefs. Democratisation, industrialisation and urbanisation were significant to modern movements, and in many cases scientific rationality, technology and the machine were at the centre. There are key debates as to whether modernist art should be formalist or functionalist, particularly in the English avant-garde movements. Avant-garde movements were seen as the more radical elements of modernity, with a more obvious social purpose. They encouraged evolutionary ideas, and non-conformity, particularly against the stylistic expectations of the public. From 1910 onwards the avant-garde was defined as a rejection of the past and the cult of the new.[52]

The work of political British art movements, such as the Artists International Associated (AIA) and the medieval modernists, are often ignored in favour of more radical Continental movements. This gives the impression that the British absorbed trends from international movements of graphic design without thought for the political movements from which they had arisen. Jobling and Crowley, and Saler make it clear that the continental movements did have a significant impact on British graphic design but the British did have their own way of doing things.[53] Unlike the Continental movements that emphasised radical revolution, the British emphasised slow, evolutionary change, following a long tradition of pragmatism in which modernist thought was allied with non-threatening Protestant values and commercial structures.[54] Modernity created not only new technology, but also a new set of conditions, rising from the French Revolution, which included a recognition that working people needed to be taken into account and catered for.[55] In the UK, industrialisation and urbanisation both created the need, and provided the audience, for methods of mass communication. More consumer goods were produced, which needed to be sold, and advertising developed to target the new condensed urban market.[56] Within a frame of modernity the modern poster is little more than one hundred years old, the product of a mass market for consumer goods and services.[57] As a tool of mass communication, the poster targeted, and still targets, large audiences with common experiences.[58]

Early posters, from the fifteenth century until the 1870s, were largely typographical. Illustrations, if used at all, were largely woodcuts. By 1900 the pictorial poster was well established, heavily influenced by developments in the 1820s when illustrated books were promoted by posters ‘created by artists of recognised talent who brought to [them] at once effectiveness and prestige’.[59] Technological changes, notably the discovery of the lithographic process by Alois Senefelder in the eighteenth century, made illustration simpler. This process became quicker, cheaper and easier, until the cost was reduced to a commercially acceptable level by 1866, when Cherét perfected the process and set up a printing establishment in Paris,[60] an establishment that had a key place ‘reserved’ for the poster design artist.[61] Many regard Cherét as the ‘father of the poster’. The first to design a truly ‘modern’ poster,[62] he was largely responsible for introducing the simplification of elements to draw attention to the message; for giving vitality to the main figures; and for losing distracting backgrounds and thus focusing the eye on the main figures. The lettering was also perceived to be important, with a need to fit in with the overall design, whilst being clear and legible from a distance, as seen in figure 23.[63] Cherét, however, was not the first serious artist to turn his hand to poster design. British artist Frederick Walker designed The Woman in White in 1861,[64] (figure 24), a poster which was shocking to many, as it was the first in which the image took over from the text.[65] It was also the first time that a Royal Academician had designed a piece of artwork specifically for advertising: many did not believe that his talents could be lent to such a low branch of ‘art’. Royal Academy work had apparently been used in posters before, but such works had had a primary purpose as art works; their use as poster art being only secondary.[66]

Metzl blamed the ‘excessive’ concern for propriety in the Victorian age, combined with a feeling that only established authority could dictate taste, for inhibiting the self-expression of artists and stifling development of British poster design until the First World War.[67] In Victorian art and design, ‘decoration was a virtue that symbolised the comfortable Victorian life’.[68] The Arts and Crafts movement, founded in the 1850s, remained largely consistent with the Victorian desire for ornamentation, but in a more simplified form, creating a ‘total work of art’ (see example, figure 25).[69] William Morris and John Ruskin, influential figures in this movement, supported the idea of an ‘English art for England’, and of ‘fitness of purpose’, ideas that were later espoused by many of the Continental avant-garde movements.[70] Morris’s prejudices against industry dominated English design from this point until the turn of the century.[71] Symbolist art became important in the nineteenth century, reintroducing iconography as a pictorial element. Symbols, such as mythological figures from the past, could sum up feelings such as patriotism, which could not be depicted realistically,[72] such as ‘John Bull’ (figure 26), used in the First World War to induce patriotic feelings.

Art Nouveau, which arose in the 1880s, was of global influence. It set aside nineteenth century historicism and contributed to the early concepts of modernism.[73] Perceived as something ‘completely new’, it had borrowed heavily from the oriental arts, as demonstrated by Toulouse-Lautrec (figure 27), an important figure in poster design. He introduced the concept of economy of line and detail in the 1890s. Inspired by Japanese woodcuts, which involved ‘the startling use of perspective in selected areas of the composition, the absence of shadow, [and] the dominant role of bright colours’,[74] after Toulouse-Lautrec the poster was used with increasing frequency and was accepted as a design form worthy of exhibits and critique.[75] The primary purpose of a poster is communication, but it appears that most posters gained critical approval for their aesthetic appeal, rather than any appraisal of their value as publicity. Also inspired by Japanese design, the Beggarstaffs[76] simplified designs to the essential elements, using flat blocks of colour, leaving it to the imagination of the viewer to fill in the details (figure 28).[77] The Beggarstaffs dispensed with the British obsession for placing poster designs within a frame,[78] where a picture was usually used as a poster, with the printers (‘the experts’) adding the lettering later, rather than the text being an integral part of the design.[79] Between 1895 and 1906, ‘the history of poster art changed from an intriguing, exotic, historical and often introspective style, to one that marked the beginnings of the rational, functional, dynamic and eclectic approaches to modern design’.[80] Manufacturers did not appear to care about good design, either wanting ‘recognised art’ to sell their products, or simply concerned with ‘selling their products in the most convenient and often the most garish manner’.[81] The Beggarstaffs were not particularly popular with manufacturers, as they refused to depict the product itself, but they had a significant impact on British poster design in the 1890s.[82]

By 1900 the ‘flower of Art Nouveau began to wither’, and there was a more functional use of design, with Charles Rennie Mackintosh reviving the use of the cube in his posters.[83] There was increasing professionalism in what was now regarded as an industry. The poster had become very popular, there was more standardisation in the format of the poster, and collectors’ magazines such as The Poster were being produced.[84] Manufacturers had begun to appreciate the importance of advertising, although most still believed that the printers could be relied upon to produce clear designs. The title ‘commercial artist’ now existed, although the artists themselves claimed that there was limited room for manoeuvre in poster design as manufacturers continued to insist on a realistic depiction of their product. With the concept of brand packaging still fairly new, companies needed to promote their packaging and, later, the development of brand characters.[85]

Prior to the First World War, John Hassall was influential, bringing the bold colour style of Cherét to the UK. Although many would have considered his artwork inferior, characterised by a ‘lack of sensitivity’, this can be considered a bonus for poster design.[86] Hassall’s essentials for a successful poster were simplicity and bold colours to ‘hit the passer-by right in the eyeball’ in ‘England’s misty climate’, evidence of which can be seen in figure 30.[87] Hassall was likely to have been influenced by the German Plakatstil (poster style), of which Ludwig Hohlwein was a major proponent (see figure 31). The hallmarks of Plakatstil were ‘bold lettering, a simple central image, and distinctive eye-catching colours’ competing for attention amongst other items in the street.[88] By 1914, the poster was accepted as a valid tool for propaganda, being cheap and easy to disseminate, and ‘Europeans’ were used to seeing posters everywhere. The fundamental elements of design – concise text and simple illustration – had been acquired.[89] This may have been true for the majority of posters, but there were still poor examples around. It is likely that the more interesting designs attracted attention and so were remembered and kept, rather than the poorer specimens.

Art and graphic design have influenced each other, although different primary functions are defined for each: art as creation; graphic design as communication.[90] During the inter-war period, several important movements influenced poster design, particularly the typographical elements.[91] Defining the movements clearly is difficult, as they tended to influence each other, and it is rare for ‘pure’ forms to survive. With rapid reaction and change, due to the speed of communication within Europe, many of these movements were short-lived.[92] The abandonment of figurative design in favour of an abstract approach to space and form had a great impact on the course of art and design. Such movements were also influential in demanding an art that could contribute to a better society.[93] In post-revolutionary Russia and post-war Europe, there was a search for a new social order, resulting in idealistic movements in both politics and the arts: the ‘rise of the common man required a universal language of symbols expressive of the newly articulated goals of the utopian society’.[94] Pictorial posters and films were important for disseminating the Communist message across the country, requiring only low levels of literacy, and with little chance of local interference with the central message. Pictures were believed to be the best medium to get the message across, with seventy-five per cent of the society unschooled.[95] The Orthodox Church had recognised this for centuries, successfully putting its message across through the means of religious icons, as seen in figure 32.[96]. Never intended as mere aesthetic objects, these worked within the framework of belief and worship to which they belonged.[97]

Before the imposition of Socialist Realism in the artistic and literary movements in the Soviet Union in 1932, there had been many important revolutionary avant-garde developments, which emphasised the excitement of the new. Suprematism, developed in 1913, (figure 33), was a purely abstract form of art utilising simple geometric shapes in the belief that figurative realism was little more than a copy of existing reality, whilst the painted surface was a living reality itself.[98] Malevich, creator of the movement, is quoted as saying:

[T]he simplest geometric forms – a square, a triangle, a circle, and intersecting lines – composed into dynamic arrangements on the flat surface of the canvas or into spatial constructions… are to express the sensation of speed, flight and rhythm.[99]

Constructivism replaced Suprematisim by 1918, becoming popular in the 1920s. This rejected such purely artistic and spiritual intentions, concerned with applying art for constructive purposes,[100] as the artist was a worker with responsibilities. The Constructivist movement demonstrated that ‘visual elements such as line, colour, shape and texture possess their own expressive qualities’.[101] Although it was banned from the USSR by 1925,[102] the movement had world-wide influence, as international exhibitions were held, publications were produced, and several of its leading theorists, including Laszlo Moholy-Nagy,[103] taught at the Bauhaus (figure 34), in Germany in 1919.

The Bauhaus was set up as a school to teach good design, along the line of William Morris’s Arts and Crafts workshops, although with more emphasis on the machine.[104] The Bauhaus encouraged simplicity in graphic design, utilising blank space whilst pursuing the goal of absolute legibility,[105] and photography and montage largely replacing realistic drawings as illustration.[106] Prior to the Bauhaus gothic typefaces were still widely used in the German speaking world.[107] Under the influence of Moholy-Nagy, a new typeface (‘New Typography’) was designed, consisting of a single alphabet, clear, legible, and lower case, which enabled cheaper printing with only a single set of typesets needed. It was stressed that letters should not be forced into shapes to suit the aesthetics of the poster, but that their functionality was more important. Many Bauhaus theorists were so convinced of the strong visual impact of such typography, that the text was felt to take on the function of the image,[108] especially when combined with the possibilities of setting text at bizarre angles. The dismissal of the upper case has always been considered too radical to be widely applied in the UK,[109] but London Transport was ahead of the Bauhaus, producing the functional Johnston typeface (figure 35) in 1915.[110] Banished from Germany in 1933, along with all other abstract movements, by the Nazis who favoured realist designs, ‘art that could easily be understood and whose depictions of men and women exemplified the Germanic race’,[111] this enabled the movement to have a far-reaching international influence, as the artists enamoured of its ideas spread round the globe. Moholy-Nagy, for example, sought asylum in England in 1935, and spent two years as a successful commercial, graphic and exhibition designer, before moving on to the USA.[112]

The De Stijl movement (also known as neo-plasticism), formed in the Netherlands in 1917 by Theo Van Doesburg,[113] was a major influence on the Bauhaus movement, partly due to the influence of El Lissitsky on Moholgy-Nagy.[114] All representational components were eliminated from paintings, reduced to their elements: straight lines, plane surfaces, rectangles, and the primary colours (red, yellow, and blue) combined with neutrals (black, grey, and white), the work was to be understood entirely on its own terms (figure 36).[115] The Bauhaus and De Stijl movements produced posters largely for their own use, rather than for advertisers, but their influence is still felt in the modern poster. Concentrating on the function of the poster as communication, they abandoned the ornamentation of Art Nouveau.[116] Cubism (1907-1914), illustrated in figure 37, radically altered the treatment and perception of form and space. Although mainly concerned with fine art, most of the members of later avant-garde movements had been influenced by Cubism at some stage.[117] Artists ceased to depend on direct observations from nature,[118] with geometrical compositions taken from natural forms. This expressed the idea of the object rather than its pure physical form, which Ashley Havinden felt was important to poster design, where the designer wished to do more than simply show the subject. Cubism allowed for the object to be reduced to something that could be seen at speed.[119]

Futurism, begun in Italy in 1909, exalted the speed, ‘power, force and motion of machinery’, glorified violence and was opposed to harmonious composition.[120] Italy, as a new country, vigorously protected its past heritage, legitimising itself with the previous heritage of Rome and the Renaissance. This revolutionary movement, which wanted to free itself from the shackles of history, was a shock.[121] The Futurists found posters a suitable medium as, unlike so much ‘traditional’ art shut away in museums, posters were in the public sphere. Futurist typography ‘sought to disrupt traditional notions of harmony, space and composition on the printed page’.[122] Unlike the Bauhaus, which used a single typographical alphabet for clarity, futurists used as many different colours and typefaces as were necessary were used to get emotions across, see figure 38. For example, a bold and ragged typeface would suggest a scream,[123] whilst still maintaining clarity. Often allied with Mussolini’s Fascist movement,[124] the Futurists wished to put the spectator ‘in the centre of the picture’, and get the viewer to engage with the image, in much the same way that a poster designer would wish.[125] The Vorticist movement, an offshoot of Cubism, began in England in 1914. Vorticism was in favour of the energy and mechanisation that the Futurists demonstrated, but criticised them for showing machines as ‘moving blurs’, rather than the cold, angular objects they were.[126] Vorticism was the first organised movement towards abstraction in English art, and subsequently had considerable influence on the development of British modernism.[127] McKnight Kauffer, who created many designs for the London Underground, is often allied with the Vorticist movement, and one of his designs can be seen in figure 39.

Dada arose in Zurich during the First World War, a nihilistic and ‘desperate reaction to the horrors of war’.[128] Dadaists were reacting against ‘norms’, such as the typical layout of the page, and they were intent on disrupting a social order that was capable of ‘wholesale murder’.[129] It reacted with the use of ‘absolute nonsense’, loving the absurd, negating all values regarded as inviolate until that point, including patriotism.[130] As seen in figure 40, in Dada, typographical rules were overturned. Lettering no longer performed simply as text, but made ‘images which formed a sense of their own’.[131] It involved the use of extreme abstraction, and introduced the concept of photomontage.[132] The Russian film director, Eisenstein, claimed that

montage was based on the premise that one image combined with a second produced a conclusion or third image, which bore no relation to either of the first two separately but was the summation of the first two used together.[133]

In figure 42 we see an example of Surrealism, a movement that arose in France in the early 1920s as a new and positive reaction to the negative forces of Dadaism.[134] As with Cubism, it tried to go beyond the surface planes,[135] uniting the ‘conscious and unconscious realms of experience’,[136] embracing ‘the absurd, the accidental and the illogical’.[137] Its influence allowed poster designers to go beyond the physical, realistic depictions of a product, with, for example, manipulations of scale assisting in promoting the message, as seen in figure 43. Symbolism and experimental geometrical shapes, in particular the mechanisation of man, also developed. For example, Cassandre’s ‘Dubo-Dubon-Dubonnet’ (figure 44) can be described as ‘simplified realism’ which remained a popular poster art force until the wartime years.[138] Statistical imagery, derived from the Viennese Isotype system, was introduced into the UK in the 1930s,[139] and photographic technique improved. Such images were acceptable to the avant-garde in a way that figurative painting was not:[140] ‘Photography was the perfect medium for reproducing reality and giving the reader a terse, pointed message’.[141] Towards the end of the 1930s, Darracott claimed that international exhibitions and publications had fostered a European style in poster design.[142]

The Continental movements influenced the British, enabling poster designers, for example, to use strange juxtapositions of design, rather than straightforward representations of products.[143] There is considerable disagreement about the extent to which this occurred. Hillier claims that although many traditional artists, such as Wilkinson, Cooper, and Newbould, were still working in the UK, the French influence of Cassandre was strongly felt.[144] Ades claims that in the UK and the USA there was a general failure to adopt modernist design. Similarly Hollis claims that New Typography was only superficially understood in the UK, and although many posters ‘weakly emulated French Cubism’, tradition remained the most powerful influence.[145] Although it was accepted that the poster was adopting a new and important role, generally posters were still dependent on their commercial function.[146] In contrast Paret argues that the poster had been politicised by the Second World War through its ideological use in the inter-war years by the Soviets and Nazis.[147] LeMahieu claims that

[w]hatever their political affiliations, Left or Right, the avant-garde in England retained the moral distance, social detachment, and aesthetic superiority characteristic of traditional elite culture.[148]

Saler challenges this with the claim that ‘visual modernism in England during the interwar period tended to be interpreted within a utilitarian and moral framework.’[149] The British did produce some adventurous designs, such as Kauffer’s Vorticist designs (figure 39) – but the work tended to remain largely detailed and nationalistic. Rickards, however, lays this fault at the feet of the clients, such as Shell and London Transport, rather than the artists.[150]

Saler argues that the English avant-garde was the most successful in Europe in the interwar period, in terms of breaking down the distinctions between art and life, with the public the most accepting of the idea that non-representational forms conveyed moral messages.[151] The English did link art with politics, with many in the modern movements desiring a better social democratic order, but they tended not to go to the extremes visible on the Continent and so were less threatening. The:

English avant-garde promoted a very “English,” gradualist vision of social change, in which art, allied to commerce, would permeate life, subtly transforming society into an organic and harmonious community.[152]

Careful to emphasise the utilitarian values, and thus economic function, of modern design, important in a country whose dominant values underscored industry and practicality,[153] British art discussions were not politicised in the way that those on the Continent were. Unlike German Dadaism and French surrealism, movements oppositional to the dominant culture, the English intellectuals were as much a part of the Establishment as they were critical of it.[154] Barnicoat claims that the ‘posters produced during the Second World War did not add anything to the achievements already established in the development of poster design generally’.[155] Ades goes further, arguing that the outbreak of war ‘brought to an abrupt end experimental graphic design’ and ‘a conservative realism’, such as that employed by Frank Newbould, once again gained dominance in posters.[156] The influences of the inter-war art movements can be clearly seen in many designs, however, such as those by Abram Games, who utilised modern graphic techniques in his wartime posters.

The poster had come under attack in the early years after the First World War, seen as a part of the system of propaganda believed to have fed atrocity lies to the population, when many believed they had been tricked into signing up.[157] First World War recruitment posters had included much romanticised imagery, which sent many into war unprepared. After the First World War there was a reaction against romanticism in art, and a desire for more realistic modernism.[158] As seen earlier, British design had been deeply committed to Victorian decorativism for almost a century, but in the post-war era there was a reaction against this, and the country embraced a functionalism consistent with the needs of modern industry.[159] Art Deco arose in the UK after the First World War, acceptable to the middle classes, it was an unthreatening alternative to the increasingly abstract styles growing on the Continent (figure 45). It took styles from many of the modern art movements, presenting them in an acceptable form that was particularly suitable for advertising.[160]

In the First World War the chief communications media for the British state were the poster and the newspaper. Weill claims that until 1914, the state had made no official use of the illustrated poster. Official posters had been used, but these were strictly typographic, and did not use the general techniques of commercial advertising: they ‘contented themselves with proclaiming the law from their specially reserved places’. As the government ‘played virtually no role in commerce or industry, its duty stopped there’.[161] In the First World War, the letterpress poster and the press were still used to impart detailed instructions to the public, but the government also made much more use of the pictorial poster. Hutchinson claimed that prior to the First World War, the first ‘total war’, posters had appealed to little more than the commercial common denominator, and that the war pressed it into serious service, as a weapon, for the first time.[162] McQuiston, however, demonstrates that the women’s suffrage movement was probably the first to use ‘the styles and techniques of commercial advertising posters to service a distinct political cause or anti-establishment viewpoint’.[163] The art nouveau styles prevalent in the early years of the century softened the ‘ugly suffragette’ theory (see figure 46). Posters produced by the Labour Party prior to the First World War had served a political cause before the suffragettes utilised them, although many appear to be little more than enlarged cartoons, as we see in figure 47. There were others that were much more hard-hitting, summarising the main issue in a single word: ‘Workless’ (figure 48).[164] An author in Art and Industry in 1940 claimed that First World War posters could be perceived in a romantic light compared to the ‘typographical go-to-it injunctions’ (figure 49), influenced by modern design, of the Second World War. The First World War seemed to be ‘a struggle between men and men, and machines scarcely appeared at all’. The economic background appeared ‘non-existent’,[165] although there are some spectacular examples of posters dealing with savings, including the clever use of money transforming into bullets (figure 50). Machinery also made its appearance in some posters, although, as the first war of the machine age, the propaganda style of previous wars was still used in the Boy’s Own tradition (figure 51) and it does appear to be quite rare.

In the First World War the poster had developed, not only to sell the idea of the war to the public, but also to sustain it despite the massive drain on life and money. Commercial artists were approached to sell the ideas, as conscription was not introduced until 1916, before which British men were to be shamed into volunteering with implications of cowardice and loss of honour, with posters designed in a similar vein to the white feathers handed out to ‘cowards’.[166] Alternatively, through atrocity propaganda, they were to be scared into what the Germans would do to their friends and families.[167] Metzl argues that many First World War posters failed as, although they were very dramatic and shocking, they left nothing to the viewer’s imagination: they were too literal.[168] Circulating atrocity stories, such as those regarding the bayoneting of babies, do not appear to have shown themselves much in British posters.[169] British efforts at atrocity posters were very weak, (figure 52), when compared to the vicious American creations, such as figure 53, but even then they were only a fraction of the posters produced, most of which were more mundane. Graphic realism, demonstrated in the posters of Brangwyn (figure 54), was also not very common, as ‘[d]eath was to be sold like Bovril, with nice, healthy, cheerful placards’. The belief in the cheerful, public school atmosphere of life in the army was continued as censorship kept the realities of trench warfare away from the public. As we see in figure 55, the First World War was presented as a sports match between the British and the Germans, and glamorised in posters which used allegorical-heroic approaches, for instance through the images that likened the activities of the soldiers to those of George and the Dragon (figure 56). Even realist images were romanticised: for example, men copied images (the bandwagon effect) of soldiers going into battle with arms raised in salute, an attitude in which they were unlikely to remain alive for long.[170]

Bernstein regards the years from 1932 to 1939 as the high point of British commercial art with Shell-Mex, headed by Jack Beddington,[171] and London Transport, headed by Frank Pick,[172] two of the major influences on poster design in the UK in the inter-war period. Posters are often described as the ‘art gallery of the street’,[173] and both organisations went to some lengths to ensure that not only were serious artists, such as Eric Kennington, employed, but lesser-known artists were also given a chance. Pick, noting that industry had driven the artist out of his traditional role, felt that it could build a new role for the artist as a poster designer. With posters inexpensive to produce, this was not a huge financial risk.[174] Freeman compares the patronage given by Shell-Mex and London Transport with that of the Medicis in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries;[175] while Saler describes Pick as a ‘medieval modernist’, part of Britain’s long-standing association of art with everyday life.[176] A reputation was gained, particularly by London Transport, for producing experimental and esoteric aesthetics: presenting works by artists such as Kauffer, in a style Hollis describes as ‘vulgarised Cubism’.[177] Although this reputation was deserved for some designs, for every experimental design there were about a dozen ‘conservative’ designs to cater for more general public tastes.[178] Many good pieces of ‘high art’ do not really work as poster design, but such images were still used by both companies, with the image presented as though in a frame, (figure 29), and the message not integrated into the design but rather added as a title.[179]

Both companies were concerned with selling their corporate image, selling their products only incidentally,[180] then a fairly new concept. Shell made no visual reference to their product, instead linking the word ‘Shell’ with a series of ‘professional types’ who would use the product, indicative of the type of branding with which we are familiar today.[181] The functional Johnston typeface was designed specifically for use by London Transport to distinguish company information from other information, including on posters, which were seen as part of a means of producing a positive corporate image.[182] Roger Fry, of the Bloomsbury movement, felt, in 1926, that such corporate advertising was designed to detract attention from the inferior quality of service provided for increasing amounts of money, although this was a minority view.[183] Many believe that Pick’s efforts to use modern art on the Underground familiarised the public with modern art, and thus facilitated public understanding of such art movements.[184] Pick himself did not object to art being baffling on the first encounter, providing that it did not lack ‘meaning and direction’, but felt that many modern art works demonstrated a ‘moral laxity’ on the part of artists. He was interested only in those works of art that were fit for their purpose, utilitarian and universally acceptable.[185] Mass-Observation showed various art works in a northern town, and found that modern art works provoked the most reaction, even if they were not liked.[186] In respect of advertising, the aim is to get the message remembered, and thus this could be viewed as a bonus.

It was not until the 1920s that the profession of ‘graphic designer’ became known and respected, partly through the efforts of Beddington and Pick. Previously, the title ‘commercial artist’ had occasionally been used, but generally, art other than for ‘art’s sake’ was dismissed as a ‘weak’ branch of the arts. Bernstein claims that this title of ‘commercial art’ was appropriate as it separated the poster from ‘pure art’ and reminded the poster designer of the poster’s purpose,[187] although C.R.W. Nevinson claimed that the portrait painter who accepts a commission to enhance drawing-rooms is as much a ‘commercial artist’.[188] Pick found it difficult to persuade ‘fine artists’ to engage in commercial design, and it was not until after the war started that art became less exclusive, was redefined as design and thus became a respectable career option.[189] Schools aided the integration of ‘designer’ with ‘artist’, demonstrating a more integrated curriculum, which blurred distinctions:[190]

Art and Handicraft should no longer be considered as separate subjects with different outlooks – “they should properly be regarded as part and parcel of one important branch of teaching”.[191]

In 1935, the government formed the Council for Art and Industry (CAI), to which Pick was appointed Chairman. Their first project was to conceptualise art education in schools, using ideas that Pick and others had been expressing for many years. Calling for the integration of art with every activity in schools, they now had the authority of the government.[192] After 1936, Pick changed his mind, and re-imposed distinctions between the ‘hedonistic artist’ and the ‘professional designer’. He claimed that modern art was immoral and degenerate and called for the old romantic style of narrative illustration to be used in posters. These ideas permeated government departments and by the end of the war the distinction between fine and commercial art was re-imposed.[193]

The freelance designer was generally considered by contemporary advertisers, purchasing the services, to produce better work, and had more prestige than the advertising agency. By the end of the 1930s, however, advertising agencies were taking most of the work, and advertising was subsequently criticised for too much standardisation and lack of imagination.[194] The designer (generally) lost status as agencies often took the credit for any designs produced, with freelancers simply employed in order to complete the work that the agencies required. Consequently many designs are un-accredited and un-signed,[195] a habit that remains for the many posters produced in the Second World War.[196]

The increasing professionalism of the industry meant that campaigns tended to have more specific targets, with success measured by sales results.[197] During the interwar period, many were keen to emphasise in the inter-war period that ‘propaganda … required assessment not by aesthetic standards but by effects’.[198] With no market research in the 1920s, the effects of posters could not be quantified. Even now, however, we cannot assume that everyone involved in the production of the poster, or those who viewed it, felt the same, ‘and the extent to which a poster expresses either a general opinion or an idiosyncratic view cannot always be sorted out’. The origins of a poster remain difficult to trace, and information about such facts as production runs and distribution are not easy to obtain, making any poster’s effectiveness very difficult to determine.[199] This is a universal problem in the study of posters, where it is difficult to measure the effect that a poster can have, as it rarely stands alone, but is one of many media used to promote a message.

Previously we noted the early use of posters by the Labour Party, dismissing them as little more than cartoons. In the inter-war period, party-political posters were developed and were much more hard hitting, a tradition which has continued to the present day. Some of the posters produced by the parties, the Labour Party in particular, such as Workless, (figure 48) are still very memorable. They reflected the industrial developments of the day, depicting the wireless (figure 57), emphasising that they were in touch with the modern world. As a party in opposition, for all except nine months in 1924, the party could make more hard-hitting statements through their posters, influenced also by their more ideological agenda, than the Conservative Party.[200] The latter were concerned with maintaining the status quo, (figure 58), and emphasised individual effort.[201] Political advertising is very adversarial, unlike brand marketing, where there is a wide range of competition. Elections are generally a two-horse race, and thus attacking the other side is a feasible strategy: the ‘evil plans’ (name-calling) of the other side make better propaganda than the positive plans of the party.[202]

There were state-sponsored propaganda schemes during the inter-war period, although they were largely concerned with overseas, rather than home, issues. The Empire Marketing Board (EMB) produced many posters,[203] with designs purposely sober and restrained, in the traditional style, designed to make the populace aware of the products of the Empire (figure 59).[204] A large new campaign to foster ‘telephone mind[edness]’ was instigated for the General Post Office (GPO) in April 1931 by Clement Attlee, Postmaster General.[205] Once again this was ‘dignified’, and attracted criticism from Crawford, head of an advertising agency, amongst others, for its lack of modern design.[206] Attlee wanted to show that the state was using publicity, although he did not particularly care if it was a success or a failure, believing that it would demonstrate the ‘fallacy’ of publicity.[207] In 1933 the GPO employed Stephen Tallents, author of The Projection of England,[208] a man who was later to have an important role in promoting the UK abroad, as Public Relations Director.[209] In 1935 he left the GPO, highly critical of the posters used so far. He felt that the artists who designed the posters did not have enough practical knowledge of the GPO’s activities, and had mistakenly assumed that GPO would want ‘conventional’ designs, and therefore were not able to promote the activities of the GPO fully.[210] It was a very different story for the EMB and GPO film units, headed by John Grierson, who insisted on ideological freedom for the films produced. Grierson believed that the government of the day could be separated from the state itself, resulting in a social democratic agenda produced in the face of a laissez-faire Tory government.[211] Both the EMB and the GPO, whose film units later formed the basis of the Crown Film Unit under the MOI Film Division,[212] had commercial gains to be made from publicity, but the same could not necessarily be said of health propaganda. The British government in the inter-war period practised health promotion due to public service responsibilities, although Grant claims that the financial outlay here was very low compared with that in some other countries.[213] It had been stressed in 1924 that health propaganda should follow best commercial practices but many of the posters employed at the time in health campaigns were ‘aesthetically unappealing and over-crowded with information’ and therefore ‘unsuited to capture the attention of the mass audience’, see figure 60.[214] In chapter seven, we will focus on the VD posters in the Second World War, and consider if these criticisms still applied.

Wainwright, having visited an exhibition of First World War posters, claimed that the ‘gulf between those vulgar, absurd and gaudy bludgeonings of the last war, and the posters of this, is almost as great a difference between the two wars themselves’.[215] The MOI produced a wide variety of works and styles, with few restrictive measures placed on poster designs submitted. Freeman claims that the MOI recognised the value of posters and ‘in accordance with the established working procedure they enlisted the services of many freelance designers’.[216] These included Fitton, Henrion, Lewitt-Him, and Fougasse, and many of the foreign designers who had arrived in the UK in the 1930s, fleeing European totalitarian movements. While many went on to the United States, they impacted on British design, leading to wider experimentation, which continued during the Second World War. The commissioning of artists is discussed further in the next chapter. After the inauspicious start of the ‘Your Courage…’ poster (figure 1), considered further in chapter three, posters relied on information over persuasion, promises rather than threats, and rational appeals over fear.[217] Metzl claims that in the Second World War there was no need for the war to be sold in the same way as had been necessary in the First World War, as people were conscripted in for most activities.[218] As a result, the poster had a different role to play: ‘[i]t may even be that the function of many posters was simply to be seen, to contribute to an atmosphere of involvement in the war effort’.[219]

Democratic propaganda had a different role to play, than that of totalitarian states. Using a range of propaganda techniques, British posters did not appear to have a ‘clear ideological purpose’, unlike those in Germany.[220] In Germany, the Nazi government took complete control of art, an ‘area of society that was economically, politically and militaristically unthreatening’. The only other country to elevate art to such a status was the Soviet Union.[221] It is still not clear what state involvement there was in dictating art movements in the UK, as there is little information that has survived. Alternatively there may have been nothing to survive, if the British government did not care about ideological biases. As a result, we tend to assume that a design style was used simply because it worked, with scant regard for the ideological movements that had produced the techniques, although Saler has disproved this view to some extent. It is even more difficult, if not impossible, to establish what the British public thought of graphic design at any time but we can establish what the government thought the people would accept.

With a great diversity of design styles, it can difficult to identify a particular British wartime poster ‘brand’. Here we must beware of sweeping statements, as wartime posters were both traditional and modern, often within the same campaign. The likelihood is that it was the interesting designs that were kept and commented on. British posters were functional and pragmatic, and although many retained traditional elements, modern traits were evident. This included simpler, bolder, less crowded designs using cleaner lines. There was a more integrated, concise, graphic, and creative use of text. Representational rather than realistic designs were possible, as abstracted elements, scale manipulations, and photography were used. More standardisation in technique and sizing was evident as a result of the increasing professionalisation of the industry.

As we can see, the poster at the start of the Second World War was not the product of any one institution. Throughout this chapter we have seen boundaries blurred between high and commercial art, and artists often had dual roles. Their high art methods influenced their commercial roles and vice versa, although artists did not necessarily use the same signature for both types of work. Various art movements had questioned the moral, ideological and functional purposes of art and communication, as had manufacturers and the government who used the poster medium. Education had impacted, with decisions on the separation or inclusion of high and commercial art within courses. Science had provided technological advancements which improved the ability of the poster to be a mass communication medium.

Working within a modern episteme, where science, professionalisation and communication for the benefit of all concerned was emphasised, the languages of the artistic styles outlines in this chapter contribute to these meanings of modernity. The message was more important than the style, but the style contributed to the message, and the form of the message supported the posters’ function as a meaningful form of communication. Avant-garde poster artists in particular looked to art to contribute to a better society, and used art to disrupt existing traditions, and approved of the poster as a less exclusive, more accessible form of art. In contrast to the more traditional, ultra-realistic, artistic styles, modern designs, particularly abstract designs, even if not liked, provoked reactions, which reinforced the posters’ function. Having discussed the artistic contexts of poster design the thesis moves on to consider the administrative history of the MOI, with an emphasis on how posters fitted in to the organisation’s structure, and on how the poster’s role was determined in the Second World War.

[1] For example, see Beller, E.A., Propaganda in Germany during the Thirty Years War, 1940; Evans, J., The Art of Persuasion: Political Propaganda from Aeneas to Brutus, 1992; Harth, P., Pen for a Party: Dryden’s Tory Propaganda in its Contexts, 1993; Jowett, G., ‘Propaganda Through the Ages’, in Jowett, G., and O’Donnell, V., Propaganda and Persuasion, 1999, pp.47-96; Sawyer, J.K., Printed Poison: Pamphlet Propaganda, Faction Politics and the Public Sphere in Early Seventeenth Century France, 1990; Sharman, I.C., Propaganda and Spin in Medieval England, Vol. 1, 2000; Taylor, P.M., Munitions of the Mind: a History of Propaganda from the Ancient World to the Present Era 1995; Thompson, D., Easily Led: A History of Propaganda, 1999; Whitehead, B.T., Brags & Boasts: Propaganda in the Year of the Armada, 1994

[2] For example, see George, A., Propaganda Analysis: a Study of Inferences made from Nazi Propaganda in World War II, 1959; Sington, D., The Goebbels Experiment: a Study of the Nazi propaganda Machine, 1942; Taylor, B., The Nazification of Art: Art, Design, Music, Architecture and Film in the Third Reich, 1990; Welch, D., The Third Reich: Politics and Propaganda 1995; Zeman, Z. Nazi Propaganda, 1964

[3] For example, see Baburina, N., The Soviet Political Poster 1917-1980: from the USSR Lenin Library Collection, 1985; Bonnell, V.E., Iconography of Power: Soviet Political Posters under Lenin and Stalin, 1997; Davies, S.R., ‘Propaganda and popular opinion in domestic Russia, 1934-41’. University of Oxford: Unpublished DPhil Thesis, 1994; Kenez, P., The Birth of the Propaganda State: Soviet Methods of Mass Mobilisation 1917-1929, 1985; Longton, W.B., ‘Soviet political posters: art and ideas for the masses’, History, Vol. 26, May 1976, pp.302-9; Margolin, V., ‘Constructivism and the Modern Poster (The Arts of Revolutionary Russia)’, Art Journal, Vol.44, No.1, 1984, pp.28-32; Taylor, B., Art of the Soviets: Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in a One Party State, 1917-1992, 1993.

[4] For example, see Chakotin, S., The Rape of the Masses: the Psychology of Totalitarian Political Propaganda, 1940; Daniels, G., ‘Japanese Domestic Radio and Cinema Propaganda, 1937-1945 – An overview’, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol.2, No.2, 1982, pp.115-132; De Mendelssohn, P., Japan’s Political Warfare, 1944; Dower, G.W., War without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific war, 1986. See also Chapter 4 ‘Propaganda and Authoritarian Ideologies’, Cole, R. Propaganda in Twentieth Century War and Politics: An Annotated Bibliography, 1996, pp.190-237, for further texts.

[5] Bartlett, F.C., Political Propaganda, 1940, p.132.

[6] For example, see Haste, C., Keep the Home Fires Burning: Propaganda in the First World War, 1977; Messinger, G.S., British Propaganda and the State in the First World War, 1992; Perry, P., ‘(Dis)ordering signs: An Inquiry into British Recruitment Posters of the First World War’, Winchester School of Art: Unpublished MA Thesis, 1995; Rickards, M., Posters of the First World War, 1968; Sanders, M.L., British propaganda during the First World War 1914-1918, 1982. See also Chapter 2 ‘Propaganda and World War I, 1914-1918’, Cole, R., op.cit., 1996, pp.88-133 for further texts.

[7] McLaine, I., Ministry of Morale: Home Front Morale and the Ministry of Information in World War Two, 1979, p.12.

[8] PRO CAB 21/1069, C.P. Robertson ‘Memorandum on the Creation of a Ministry of Information in War’, September 12 1935.

[9] Jackall, R., ‘Introduction’, in Jackall, R. (ed.), Main Trends of the Modern World: Propaganda, 1995, p.5. Bartlett, F.C., op.cit., 1940, p.105 notes that Hitler also admired the British propaganda effort from the First World War.

[10] Bartlett, F.C., op.cit., 1940, p.133.

[11] Doherty, M., ‘What is Political Propaganda?’ (Lecture), ‘MA in Propaganda, Persuasion and History’, at University of Kent at Canterbury, October 1997.

[12] Jackall, R., ‘Introduction’, op.cit., 1995, pp.4-5.

[13] Grant, M., Propaganda and the Role of State in Inter-War Britain 1994, p.35.

[14] Ibid., p.46.

[15] Willcox, T., ‘Towards a Ministry of Information’, History Vol. 69, pp.398-414, October 1984, p.399.

[16] PRO INF 1/26, ‘Letter from Lt. Commander D.S.E. Thompson to Sir Walter Monckton’, May 26 1940.

[17] See Gerver, I. And Bensman, J. ‘Towards a Sociology of Expertness’, Jackall, R. (ed.), op.cit., 1995, pp.54-73, which describes the rise of ‘the expert’ in modern society.

[18] Grant, M., op.cit., 1994, p.15. See inter-war, and inter-war influenced, theoretical works such as: Bartlett, F.C., op.cit., 1940; Doob, L.W., Propaganda: Its Psychology and Technique, 1935; Hargrave, J., Propaganda the Mightiest Weapon of All: Words Win Wars, 1940; Lambert, R.S., Propaganda, 1938; Russell, B., Free Thought and Official Propaganda, etc., 1922; Viereck, G.S. Spreading Germs of Hate, 1931.

[19] O’Donnell, V., ‘Propaganda and Persuasion Examined’, in Jowett, G., and O’Donnell, V., op.cit., 1999, p.166.

[20] Ibid., pp.1-2.

[21] See, for instance, Brown, J.A.C., Techniques of Persuasion: From Propaganda to Brainwashing, 1963, p.23; Bartlett, F.C., op.cit., 1940, p.24; p.74. See Giles, G., ‘Through Cigarette Cards to Manliness: Building German Character with an Informal Curriculum’, in Goodman, J., and Martin, J., Gender, Politics and the Experience of Education: An International Perspective, 2002, pp.73-96. When German schools were bombed, the education system broke down so children were educated with cigarette cards, ‘designed as character-building and ideological tools’, ‘blatantly tied to anti-British propaganda efforts’.

[22] O’Donnell, ‘Propaganda and Persuasion Examined’, in Jowett, G., and O’Donnell, V., op.cit., 1999, p.164.

[23] Munslow, A., Deconstructing History, 1997, p.120.

[24] O’Donnell, ‘Propaganda and Persuasion Examined’, in Jowett, G., and O’Donnell, V., op.cit., 1999, p.164. M-O FR 1536, ‘Have you a mind of your own: Article by Kathleen Raine in Modern Woman about the influence of propaganda’, December 1942 noted that ‘Hitler acts on the assumption that by propaganda people can be made to accept anything. We British like to think that we have a mind of our own.’

[25] Doherty, M., op.cit., 1997.

[26] Brown, J.A.C., op.cit., 1963, p.23.

[27] Doherty, M., op.cit., 1997.

[28] Bartlett, F.C., op.cit., 1940, p.56.

[29] O’Donnell, V., ‘Propaganda and Persuasion Examined’, in Jowett, G., and O’Donnell, V., op.cit., 1999, p.173.

[30] Ibid., pp.231-234; and Institute for Propaganda Analysis, ‘How to Detect Propaganda’, in Jackall, R. (ed.), op.cit., 1995, pp.214-224 (Reprinted from Propaganda Analysis, Vol. 1, No.2., 1937).

[31] Jackall, R., Ibid., p.218, and Delwiche, A., ‘Propaganda Critic: Word games > Name calling’,, last updated September 29 2002, accessed August 11 2003.

[32] Delwiche, A., ‘Propaganda Critic: Word games > Glittering generalities’,, last updated September 29 2002, accessed August 11 2003.

[33] Delwiche, A., ‘Propaganda Critic: False Connections > Transfer’,, last updated September 29 2002, accessed August 11 2003.

[34] Bartlett, F.C., op.cit., 1940, p.52.

[35] Ibid., p.55.

[36] Jowett, G., ‘Propaganda and Psychological Warfare’, in Jowett, G., and O’Donnell, V., op.cit., 1999, p.232.

[37] Delwiche, A., ‘Propaganda Critic: False Connections > Testimonial’,, last updated September 29 2002, accessed August 11 2003.

[38] Jowett, G., ‘Propaganda and Psychological Warfare’, in Jowett, G., and O’Donnell, V., op.cit., 1999, p.232, and Delwiche, A., ‘Propaganda Critic: Special Appeals > Plain Folks’,, last updated September 29 2002, accessed August 11 2003.

[39] Jowett, G., ‘Propaganda and Psychological Warfare’, in Jowett, G., and O’Donnell, V., op.cit., 1999, p.232.

[40] Ibid., and ‘Propaganda Critic: Special Appeals > Bandwagon’,, accessed August 11 2003.

[41] Paret, P., Lewis, B. I., and Paret, P., Persuasive Images: Posters of War and Revolution from the Hoover Institution Archives, 1992, p.viii.

[42] Anderson, B., Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, 1991, p.81.

[43] Bartlett, F.C., op.cit., 1940, p.54.

[44] Ibid., p.70.

[45] Laver, J., ‘Introduction’, in Laver, J. (ed.), Art for All: London Transport Posters 1908-1949, 1949, p.12.

[46] Weill, A., The Poster: A Worldwide Survey and History, 1985, p.9.

[47] Hillier, B., Posters, 1969, p.11, and Metzl, E., The Poster: Its History and Its Art, 1962, p.25, note that these include Belshazzer’s feast where God wrote upon the wall, and the Ten Commandments inscribed on stone.

[48] Metzl, E., op.cit., 1963, p.26, notes that Ancient Greece and Rome had buildings with facades divided into spaces much as a modern billboard would be, decorated with commercial and electioneering advertising, discovered in Pompeii. See also Hillier, B., op.cit., 1969, p.11.

[49] Laver, J. ‘Introduction’, op.cit., 1949, p.12 notes that the shop sign, which used symbolic signage to indicate merchants’ wares to a non-literate population, has been suggested as a more modern antecedent of the poster. Orders were made to paste the signage flat as there was a dangerous accumulation of such signs, thus in many ways these became posters.

[50] Rossi, A., Posters, 1969, p.7.

[51] Crowley, D., ‘The Propaganda Poster’, in Timmers, M. (ed.), The Power of the Poster, 1998, pp.102-3.

[52] Calinescu, M., Five Faces of Modernity: Modernism, Avant-Garde, Decadence, Kitsch, Postmodernism, 1987, pp.3-126; Pippin, R.B., Modernism as a Philosophical Problem: On the Dissatisfactions of European High Culture, 1991, pp.4-44, Saler, M.T., The Avant-Garde in Interwar England: Medieval Modernism and the London Underground, 1999, pp.viii-8, and Jobling, P., and Crowley, D., Graphic Design: Reproduction and Representation since 1800, 1996, p.101.

[53] Saler, M.T., op.cit., 1999, and Jobling, P., and Crowley, D., op.cit., 1996.

[54] Saler, M.T., op.cit., 1999, pp.9-12.

[55] Crowley, D., ‘The Propaganda Poster’, in Timmers, M. (ed.), op.cit., 1998, pp.102-3.

[56] Heller, S., and Chwast, S., Graphic Style: From Victorian to Post-Modern, 1988, p.15.

[57] Green, O., Underground Art, 1990, p.6.

[58] Heyman, T., Posters American Style, 1998, p.6.

[59] Weill, A., op.cit., 1985, p.19.

[60] Rickards, M., The Rise and Fall of The Poster, 1971, p.16.

[61] Metzl, E., op.cit., 1963, p.37.

[62] Barnicoat, J., A Concise History of Posters, 1972, p.7. For example, this term is also used by: Bolton, C. K., The Reign of the Poster, Being Comments and Criticisms, 1895, p.2; Rossi, A., op.cit., 1969, p.32; Weill, A., op.cit., 1985, p.22.

[63] Metzl, E., op.cit., 1963, p.37.

[64] Poster historians such as Hillier, B., op.cit., 1969, p.23; Jones, S.R., Posters and their Designers, 1924, p.1; Metzl, E., op.cit., 1963, p.53; Rickards, M., op.cit., 1971, p.15; and Timmers, M., ‘Introduction’, in Timmers, M. (ed.), op.cit., 1998, p.27, have all mentioned this as a significant influence upon the evolution of poster design.

[65] Rickards, M., op.cit., 1971, p.15.

[66] Metzl, E., op.cit., 1963, pp.53-55.

[67] Ibid., 1962, p.51.

[68] Heller, S., and Chwast, S., op.cit., 1988, p.16.

[69] Ibid., p.31.

[70] See Heller, S., and Chwast, S., op.cit., 1988, p.89, for the New Typographers who most vehemently believed in this idea. (See Saler, M.T., op.cit., 1999, p.13.)

[71] Ibid., p.73.

[72] Barnicoat, J., op.cit., 1972, p.48.

[73] Livingston, A., and Livingston, I., Dictionary of Graphic Design and Designer, 1992, p.17.

[74] Novotny, F., Toulouse-Lautrec, 1969, p.26.

[75] Foster, J.K., The Posters of Picasso, 1964, pp.9-11.

[76] Recognised artists James Pryde and William Nicholson labelled their poster art as the ‘Beggarstaffs’, so as not to affect their more ‘serious work’. See Campbell, C., The Beggarstaff Posters: The Work of James Pryde and William Nicholson, 1993

[77] Metzl, E., op.cit., 1963, p.59.

[78] This became the norm by wartime, excepting the odd Shell poster, as seen in figure 29.

[79] Rickards, M., op.cit., 1971, p.18 and Heller, S., and Chwast, S., op.cit., 1988, p.73. See also Morrow, M. (1899) quoted in Hillier, B., op.cit., 1969, p.124.

[80] Ades, D., The Twentieth Century Poster: Design of the Avant-Garde, 1984, p.21.

[81] Heller, S. and Chwast, S., op.cit., 1988, p.73.

[82] Metzl, E., op.cit., 1963, p.59.

[83] Heller, S. and Chwast, S., op.cit., 1988, p.73.

[84] Weill, A., op.cit., 1985, p.55.

[85] See Opie, R., The Art of the Label: Designs of the Times, 1990, for a brief history of brand packaging. Pavitt, J., Brand.New, 2000, accompanied a major V&A exhibition, held in 2000, displaying several popular brands. ‘A hairy naked man in a rubber ring. Interested?’ The Guardian: G2: Branded, A Special Investigation, 9 July 2001, p.2, noted that today we have even moved past advertising to sell a product, instead ‘we make money by selling an emotional attachment to a brand’.

[86] Hillier, B., op.cit., 1969, p.83.

[87] Bigham, J., ‘Commercial Advertising and the Poster from the 1880s to the Present’, in Timmers, M. (ed.), op.cit., 1998, p.181.

[88] Heller, S., and Chwast, S., op.cit., 1988, p.76.

[89] Stanley, P., What Did You do in the War Daddy?, 1983, p.7.

[90] Barnicoat, J., op.cit., 1972, p.7.

[91] Hollis, R., Graphic Design: A Concise History, 1994.

[92] Fry, E., Cubism, 1966, p.10.

[93] Smith, D., ‘Constructivism Page’,, accessed July 5 2001.

[94] Ades, D., op.cit., 1984, p.10.

[95] Ibid., pp.44-5.

[96] Boguslawski, A., ‘Icons, Brief History’, , accessed July 5 2001. For more information see Anonymous, ‘Russian Iconography on the Internet’,, and Anonymous, ‘Outline’,, last updated June 16 2001, accessed July 13 2001.

[97] Christian Sanctuary Gallery, ‘Byzantine Iconography – A Brief Overview’,, accessed July 13 2001.

[98] Fer, B. et. al., Realism, Rationalism, Surrealism: Art Between the Wars, 1993, p.264.

[99] Boguslawski, A. ‘Suprematism’,, accessed July 5 2001.

[100] McQuiston, L., Graphic Agitation, 1993, p.17.

[101] Smith, D., ‘Constructivism Page’, op.cit., 2001.

[102] Hutchinson, H.F., The Poster: An Illustrated History, 1968, p.88. Heller, S., and Chwast, S., op.cit., 1988, p.105, note that the tolerance for avant-garde movements amongst Soviet leaders waned after Lenin’s death in 1924.

[103] Whitford, F., Bauhaus, 1984, p.123. See Chapter 12, ‘Towards a new unity: Moholy-Nagy and Albess’, pp.123-135.

[104] Heller, S., and Chwast, S., op.cit., 1988, p.113.

[105] Ades, D., op.cit., 1984, p.11.

[106] Heller, S., and Chwast, S., op.cit., 1988, p.117.

[107] Rowland, A., Bauhaus Source Book, 1990, p.124.

[108] Ades, D., op.cit., 1984, p.62.

[109] Rowland, A., op.cit., 1990, p.127.

[110] See below, p.73.

[111] Barron, S., Degenerate Art: The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany, 1991, p.25.

[112] ‘Laslo Moholy-Nagy’, London Transport Museum Database, accessed February 2000.

[113] Overy, P., De Stijl, 1991, p.9.

[114] Smith, D., ‘Constructivism Page’, op.cit., 2001, notes that El Lissistsky had previously arranged an exhibition of Russian Constructivist art in Berlin in 1922.

[115] Warncke, C., De Stijl 1917-1931, 1994, pp.9-10.

[116] Weill, A., op.cit., 1985, p.149.

[117] Jobling, P., and Crowley, D., op.cit., 1996, p.139; Fry, E., op.cit., 1966, p.9.

[118] Fry, E., op.cit., 1966, p.33.

[119] Hutchinson, H.F., op.cit., 1968, p.88

[120] Anonymous, ‘Italian Futurist introductory essay’,, accessed September 29 2000.

[121] Taylor, J.C. Futurism, 1961, p.9.

[122] Anonymous, ‘Il Futurismo Font Set’,, accessed July 5 2001.

[123] Weill, A., op.cit., 1985, p.149.

[124] See Chapter 11 ‘Futurism and Fascism: Marinetti and Mussolini’, Tisdall, C. and Bozzolla, A. Futurism, 1977, pp.200-209.

[125] Taylor, J.C., op.cit., 1961, p.13.

[126] Rosenblum, R., Cubism in Twentieth Century Art, 1976, p.222.

[127] Chilvers, I., ‘A Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Art: Vorticism’,, Oxford
Reference Online, written 1998, accessed August 13 2002. See Cork, R. Vorticism and Its Allies, 1974 for more information on the Vorticist movement in the UK.

[128] Weill, A., op.cit., 1985, p.149.

[129] Kerkauf, W., Dada: Monograph of a Movement, 1975, p.14.

[130] Ibid., p.8.

[131] Weill, A., op.cit., 1985, p.149.

[132] See Scott Bushe, G., ‘Photomontage in Advertising’, Advertising Monthly, September, 1939, pp.27-28 to see how photomontage was defined at the outbreak of war. See also Evans, D. and Gohl, S., Photomontage: A Political Weapon, 1986, and Heartfield, J., Photomontages of the Nazi Period, 1977.

[133] Quoted in Foster, J.K., op.cit., 1964, p.16. For example, in the poster ‘Always in Touch’, seen in figure 41, two separate images, one of the Underground Tube line, and one of a hand, which are legitimate images in their own right, but once combined project a forceful message of man in control of technology. (Hollis, Graphic Design, 1994, p.95) See Taylor, R., The Eisenstein Reader 1998 for more on Eisenstein and his theories of montage as used in the cinema.

[134] Leslie, R., Surrealism: The Dream of Revolution, 1997.

[135] Hutchinson, H.F., op.cit., 1968, p.88.

[136] Koshevoy, I., ‘Surrealism: 1924-1940’,, written March 1995, accessed July 5 2001.

[137] Haslam, M., The Real World of the Surrealists, 1978, p.7.

[138] Anonymous, ‘Posters and the French Artist’s International Lead in Poster Design’, Art and Industry, Vol. 29, No. 170, August 1940, pp.42-48.

[139] Hollis, R., op.cit., 1994, p.95.

[140] Ades, D., op.cit., 1984, p.64.

[141] Heller, S., and Chwast, S., op.cit., 1988, p.120.

[142] Darracott J., ‘Introduction’, in Darracott J. and Loftus, B. Second World War Posters, 1972 (1981 edition), p.9.

[143] Hutchinson, H.F., op.cit., 1968, p.89.

[144] Hillier, B., op.cit., 1969, p.258.

[145] Hollis, R., op.cit., 1994, p.89.

[146] Ades, D., op.cit.,1984, p.64.

[147] Paret, P., Lewis, B. I., and Paret, P., op.cit., 1992, p.142.

[148] Le Mahieu, D.L., A Culture for Democracy: Mass Communication and the Cultural Mind in Britain between the Wars, 1988, p.207.

[149] Saler, M.T., op.cit., 1999, p.182.

[150] Rickards, M., op.cit., 1971, p.49.

[151] Saler, M.T., op.cit., 1999, p.8.

[152] Ibid., p.9.

[153] Ibid., p.12.

[154] Ibid., p.16.

[155] Barnicoat, J., op.cit., 1972, p.242.

[156] Ades, D., op.cit., 1984, pp.24-5.

[157] Crowley, D.,’The Propaganda Poster’, in Timmers, M. (ed.), op.cit., 1998, p.114.

[158] Saler, M.T., op.cit., 1999, p.61.

[159] Heller, S., and Chwast, S., op.cit., 1988, p.151.

[160] Ibid., p.127.

[161] Weill, A., op.cit., 1985, p.129.

[162] Hutchinson, H.F., op.cit., 1968, p.70.

[163] McQuiston, L., op.cit., 1993, p.19.

[164] Crowley, D., ‘The Propaganda Poster’, in Timmers, M. (ed.), op.cit., 1998, p.104, notes that this poster was reissued in 1929 as mass employment again became a big issue.

[165] Anonymous, ‘The Other War’, Art and Industry, Vol. 29, No. 169, July 1940, p.14.

[166] See Marwick, A., The Deluge, 1965, p.50.

[167] McQuiston, L., op.cit., 1993, p.20.

[168] Metzl, E., op.cit., 1963, p.87.

[169] Hillier, B., op.cit., 1969, p.224, and Paret, P., Lewis, B. I., Paret, P., op.cit., 1992, p.20, for instance describe British First World War posters as atrocity posters, although it has actually been quite difficult to find examples of British propaganda posters in an atrocity style. Well known atrocity posters are largely American.

[170] Hillier, B., op.cit., 1969, p.231.

[171] See Bernstein, D., The Shell Poster Book, 1993; Hewitt, J., The Shell Poster Book, 1998, and Bommes, M. and Wright, P., ‘“Charms of Residence”: the public and the past’, in Johnson, R., McLennan, G., Schwarz, B., and Sutton, D., Making Histories: Studies in History-Writing and Politics, 1982, pp.276-288 for a study of the development of Shell posters.

[172] See Green, O., op.cit., 1990; Hutchinson, H., London Transport Posters, 1963; Laver, J. (ed.), op.cit., 1949; and Riddell, J., By Underground to Kew: London Transport Posters, 1908-Present, 1994, for histories of poster design on London Transport.

[173] This was a sentiment Pick expressed. Barnicoat, J., op.cit., 1972, p.102, and Saler, M.T., op.cit., 1999, p.ix. Saler, p.102, noted that in 1929, London Transport posters were so popular that there was an exhibition, but Pick did not want the purpose of the poster to be forgotten, and at the entrance was the sign: “There is no catalogue. A good Poster explains itself.”

[174] Ades, D., op.cit., 1984, p.66.

[175] Freeman, J., ‘Professional Organisations: Stricture or Structure for Graphic Design?’, in Bishop, T. (ed.), Design History: Fad or Function?, 1978, p.32.

[176] Saler, M.T., op.cit., 1999, p.4.

[177] Hollis, R., op.cit., 1994, p.92.

[178] Hutchinson, H., op.cit., 1963, p.12.

[179] Bernstein, D., op.cit., 1993, p.2.

[180] Ibid., p.1.

[181] Hollis, R., op.cit., 1994, p.93.

[182] Green, O., op.cit., 1990, pp.8-9.

[183] Ades, D., op.cit., 1984, p.66.

[184] For example, Heller, S., and Chwast, S., op.cit., 1988, p.152, and Haworth-Booth, M., E. McKnight Kauffer: A Designer and His Public, p.66

[185] Saler, M.T., op.cit., 1999, pp.98-99.

[186] Ibid., p.47.

[187] Bernstein, D., op.cit., 1993, p.1.

[188] Quoted in Saler, M.T., op.cit., 1999, p.28.

[189] Ibid., p.43.

[190] Ibid., p.72.

[191] Anonymous, ‘Art and Craft in the New “Suggestions”’, Art and Craft Education, Vol. 2, No. 6, June 1937, pp.1-2.

[192] Saler, M.T., op.cit., 1999, pp.138-9.

[193] Ibid., pp.154-157.

[194] Freeman, J., op.cit., 1990, p.33.

[195] Ibid., p.32.

[196] See Hollis, R. op.cit., 1994, p.96, for a brief explanation of how agencies worked.

[197] Darracott J., ‘Introduction’, in Darracott, J., and Loftus, B. (eds), op.cit., 1972 (1981 edition), p.7.

[198] Crowley, D., ‘The Propaganda Poster’, in Timmers, M. (ed.), op.cit., 1998, p.113.

[199] Paret, P., Lewis, B. I., and Paret, P., op.cit., 1992, p.ix.

[200] See Wring, D., Political Marketing and Organisational Development: The Case of the Labour Party in Britain, 1995, pp.1-8, which considers the development of Labour Party propaganda from 1918 to 1950.

[201] See Cockett, R., ‘The Party, Publicity and the Media’, in Seldon, A., and Ball, S., Conservative Century: The Conservative Party Since 1900, 1994.

[202] Archer, B., and Powell, C., ‘Selling the Unsellable’ Guardian Unlimited,4273,4025614,00.html, written June 5 2000, accessed July 13 2001.

[203] See Constantine, S., Buy and Build: The Advertising Posters of the Empire Marketing Board, 1986; and Mackenzie, J., Propaganda and Empire, The Manipulation of British Public Opinion 1880-1960, 1984, for details of these posters.

[204] Crowley, D., ‘The Propaganda Poster’, in Timmers, M. (ed.), op.cit., 1998, p.115.

[205] Grant, M., op.cit., 1994, p.99.

[206] Ibid., p.109 This was the second phase of the same campaign, which included the use of publicity on moving vehicles.

[207] Ibid., p.99.

[208] Tallents, S., The Projection of England, 1932.

[209] Taylor, P.M., The Projection of Britain: British Overseas Publicity and Propaganda 1919-1939, 1981, p.110.

[210] Grant, M., op.cit., 1994, p.121.

[211] See: Baxendale, J. and Pawling, C., Narrating the Thirties: A Decade in the Making: 1930 to the Present, 1996, pp.22-33, and Mackenzie, J.M., op.cit., 1984, pp.83-86, for more on the work of the EMB and GPO film units.

[212] Chapman, J., The British at War: Cinema, State and Propaganda, 1939-1945, 1998, p.2.

[213] Grant, M., op.cit., 1994, p.158. Grant does not provide qualifying statistics.

[214] Ibid., p.153.

[215] Wainwright, W., ‘Posters in Wartime’, Our Time, June 1943, p.14.

[216] Freeman, J., op.cit., 1990, p.34.

[217] Crowley, D., ‘The Propaganda Poster’, in Timmers, M. (ed.), op.cit., 1998, p.124.

[218] Metzl, E., op.cit., 1963, p.86.

[219] Stanley, P., op.cit., 1983, p.17.

[220] Taylor, B., and Van der Will, W., The Nazification of Art, 1990, p.184.

[221] Barron, S., op.cit., 1991, p.10.

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