Friday, February 24, 2012

Fighting words: Vintage political posters

This guest post is by Eoghan (follow him on Twitter and see his blog here):

Art has long been used for propaganda purposes. From the statues and paintings ascribing super-human strength to Roman generals, through to the enormous Communist monuments of workers proudly building the Soviet Union, politicians have for centuries used art for their own gain.

Today, the most famous political posters are probably Uncle Sam's 'I Want You' and the 'Keep Calm and Carry On' message from World War II. A look online can turn up some fascinating lesser known examples of art being used to overtly political purposes.

World War II posters have proven particularly popular over recent years with reproductions widely available. Many of these posters carried one of three simple messages: Save oil to help the war effort, don't waste food, and don't tell anybody information that may give away army positions.

'Loose Lips Sink Ships' became a famous slogan in the battle to encourage people to keep their traps shut. There are a lot of variations on this theme, however, including the brilliantly simple: 'If you talk too much, this man may die'.

Amongst the most interesting posters of the war are those aimed at women. The messaging towards women seems hilariously sexist when viewed through modern eyes - with the men fighting the good fight, women were encouraged to do their part by shopping efficiently and doing the jobs they left behind.

Back at home, Irish politicians have been known to take to the canvas to get their message across. This Cumann na nGaedheal effort, which most likely dates from the 1930s, gets a simple message across.

Cumann na nGaedheal, of course, went on to become Fine Gael. Perhaps the above poster is one their current coalition partners should bear in mind.

A selection of political posters can be found at

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