World War II Posters.
A few years ago Te Papa Tongarewa ran an exhibition on posters from World War II entitled "Duty Calls". The Te Papa Picture Library recently gave us permission to reproduce a few of these posters online. Much of this collection was amassed, distributed and displayed by Wellington manufacturing businessman Cecil Herbert Andrews as part of his war effort, and later donated to the Dominion Museum in 1967. From a graphic perspective it's interesting to note the propaganda style – the strong use of colour and imagery, striking contrasts and simple, emotionally loaded messages. There's a powerful plea here to get behind the war effort. Some of these posters were designed by the best New Zealand commercial designers at the time and painted with great care, some were designed and printed in the UK.
By way of further explanation, here's some additional information from the exhibition curator at the time: "New Zealand’s war posters echoed thousands of others by artists around the world. As a propaganda tool they were cheap and easy to make, they gave wide coverage and were easily replaced as the war’s unfolding events changed government priorities. They urged people to join the armed forces, volunteer, lend money, and work harder and faster. As an art form and a means of communication, the poster is still one of the most effective ways to get a message across to a busy public. You pass hundreds every week on city streets."
Additional image notes from Te papa's curators below. Further images of this type can be found here.
- Michael Barrett
Speed Up Production – "Painted with great care and detail, King has designed a powerful and emotional plea to the older generation. The image shows a respectable citizen in shirt and tie covered in overalls coming out of retirement to 'muck-in'. King deepens the two dimensional space of the poster by having the citizen gesture over his shoulder to an evocative wartime scene in the distant background. The linking of masculinity to the machinery of heavy industry is a common device in war posters throughout the world. Marcus King was a respected graphic artist in the 1930s and 1940s, working for various government agencies including the Post Office."
He Offers His Life… – "A fund-raising poster designed and printed in World War II. The poster is an emotionally charged call for New Zealanders to give money to the war effort. Its intention is to remind civilians of the sacrifices that were being made on their behalf by armed forces overseas. This particular message is achieved through guilt and a noble image of a pilot — 'He Offers His Life!' After 1940, the National Savings Committee raised substantial annual internal loans based on voluntary public subscription to pay for the war. Many New Zealanders lent their money to the government, to be repaid after the war at modest interest rates. Most of the loans were called 'Liberty Loans' (this particular poster advertised the '3rd Liberty Loan' of 1943). Nearly half of the country's war spending was covered by internal borrowing. New Zealand had no outstanding overseas debt as a result of World War II. Posters such as this made intense appeals, often through guilt, to New Zealanders' sense of patriotism and sacrifice."