Artemy Lebedev

§ 154. Have YOU made a finger-pointing poster?

December 8, 2008

In 1914 London Opinion published an issue with lord Kitchener on the cover—the British Minister of War stared piercingly pointing his finger at the viewer.

Great Britain. London Opinion. 1914. By Alfred Leete

This illustration is disrespectful enough. The field marshal is sticking his finger right into your face, and pointing with the index finger is impolite anyhow, even when not at people. To make it worse, he is wearing white gloves to signify his high military rank. So, the message is: “The country needs you, but you should know your place.”

The First World War was beginning. And the illustration gained relevance—London Opinion gave their permission to make it into a military poster.

[lord Kitchener/high rank officer]
“Wants YOU”
Join your country’s army!
God save the King
Reproduced by permission of London Opinion

Great Britain. 1914–1916

It seems that his eyes keep staring at you, no matter from which angle you look. The finger does the same—it appears pointing right at you, even if you stand to the side.

In January 1916 there came another poster. This time it was an artistic work with ungloved hand. It showed John Bull, a national personification of the United Kingdom, like the American Uncle Sam.

Who’s absent?
Is it You?

Great Britain. January 1916. By unknown author

In July 1916, when the United States were preparing to enter the war, Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly Newspaper put on its cover an illustration by James Montgomery Flagg asking: “What Are You Doing for Preparedness?” In February 1917, it appeared on another Leslie’s issue, but with a different caption, saying: “I Want YOU.”

The same year the country saw it printed in millions of copies. The caption was amended, encouraging people to enlist.

I want YOU for U.S. Army
Nearest recruiting station
[address here]

USA. 1917. By James Montgomery Flagg. From the Library of Congress collection

The poster became world’s classics to be endlessly parodied. Flagg mocked his own illustration creating another cover for the same Leslie’s Newspaper in December 1917, the time when the propaganda version could already be seen on every corner.

Get off that throne!

USA. Leslie’s. December 29, 1917. By James Montgomery Flagg

Similarly designed poster appeared in Italy.

Perform your duty!
Subscribe to the Credito Italiano bond issue

Italy. 1917. By Luciano Mauzan

In 1919 the White Guard released a poster asking “Why aren’t you part of the army?” The design is utterly poor. Firstly, the image is borrowed from the Italian poster. Secondly, the text is totally unreadable. Thirdly, the art nouveau typeface makes you feel like they are inviting you to a champagne dance party. Fourthly, it uses the respectful form of you, which is out of place here. (In the Italian version it was used properly, for they meant to advertise military bonds, not to recruit manpower.)

Why aren’t you part of the army?

Russia. 1919(?). By unknown author

“Why aren’t you joining the army, my dear?”
“Sorry, I don’t feel well.”
“Ah, I see.”

The author has a strong feeling that the White Guard lost the civil war in Russia just because they were incapable of effective design—all their posters look helpless compared to the propaganda graphics by the Red Army. Below is just another example.

Why aren’t you at the front?

Russia. 1920. By unknown author

The Germans followed.

You too must join Reichswehr.

Germany. 1919. By Julius Ussy Engelhard

In 1920 Dmitry Moor created his famous poster that became a classic in the USSR, in the same way Flagg’s Uncle Sam poster got popular worldwide.

Have YOU volunteered to enlist?

Russian Soviet Federal Socialistic Republic. 1920. By D. S. Moor

Moor was more than just a brilliant artist. He also possessed great slogan-making skills. The phrase gained no less popularity than the image of the soldier.

There were incredibly many similar-looking artworks around the world. The poster featuring Uncle Sam came into use for agitation again during the Second World War. Curiously, at that time Moor re-designed his poster making it up-to-date.

What have YOU done to help the front?

USSR. 1941. By D. S. Moor

Today any image of a person staring and pointing the finger at you is instantly recognized as a parody of either Moor’s or Flagg’s poster.

Do YOU respect me?

By Gleb Androsov

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