Modernist art movements were influencing propaganda posters from the early 20st century. A good example of the avant garde movement influence is a famous piece Beat the Whites with the red wedge – by El Lissitzky, in 1920 which used various geometric color surfaces in an abstract fashion. Lissitzky used this subtle platform to suggest in a blunt propaganda massage.
This early Russian revolutionary poster, “Believe, will celebrate the hundredth anniversary,” is one of the many posters that used modernism as was practiced by Fernand Léger , Marc Chagall and others.
Beat the Whites with the red wedge – 1920
Figurative Cubism was introduced by Strakhov-Braslavskij A. I. in his poster “Liberated woman – build up socialism!“, in 1926 and by V. Kulagina’s poster called “To Defend USSR” , in 1930. The quality of the artistic works in these early posters reveals that these creative artists were trying to use propaganda platform as a conduit for the realization of their aesthetic inspiration. Perhaps in those early years of Soviet Union these artists still had a degree of conviction in the legitimacy of their cause, something that was lacking in the propaganda posters of the later years,
… the atmosphere of the times, all fire and fever, tumultuous, lyrical, glittering. It could only take place in a style matching the artistic adventures of our time, in a strictly contemporary mode. The artists had from Il Duce a clear and precise order; to make something MODERN, full of daring. And they have faithfully obeyed his commands.
Ludwig Hohlwein,. Red Cross Collection 1914. Collection in support of volunteer nursing in the war. 1914,
Images of women have been prominent in the war poster propaganda as well as in other ideologically driven posters. The images of motherhood have been exploited to symbolize national security, sanctity of homes, duty to country and duty to family. Many of the propaganda posters portrait femininity as passive and in need of protection. Some posters emphasize the patriotic mother who is willing to sacrifice her sons to the war effort. The propaganda has been used to provoke a nationalistic attitude towards the motherland, a place that is pure, noble and different. In the classic war propaganda campaigns of the 20th Century, women as victims of rape often symbolize the brutality of the enemy as well as the despoiling of the motherland’s culture and harmony. Ironically, however, women are sometimes portrayed as potential traitors or unwitting accomplices by virtue of their supposed tendency to gossip. Through this cultural stereotyping, an atmosphere of suspicion is created and domestic surveillance becomes embedded into the national consciousness as one of the justified costs of war.
Soviet propaganda posters of the 1920s and the 1930s often portrayed women as larger-than-life figures, reflecting their new economic role and socio-political power and importance. Women equality was enshrined in the Soviet constitution. To realize this ideal, there was a need to set up various institutions that would allow women to become engaged fully in the productive sectors of the economy. Thus, the government invested heavily on various child care facilities, and large-scale canteens to allow them to enter into the workforce. In the propaganda posters, the liberated Soviet women were depicted in various productive roles, although in reality, the gender inequality persisted, and during the whole Soviet era no woman of consequence did emerge at the helms of power.
In contrast, the ideal role for a woman in Nazi Germany was to work at home and be a mother. The Winterhilfswerk, or Winter-Help-Work of the German People, was founded by the Nazis after Hitler was appointed Chancellor. It was their official winter relief charity that was operating under Reich propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels . Hitler introduced the fund in a speech in September 13th, 1933, in which he claimed, “This great campaign against hunger and cold is governed by this principle: We have broken the international solidarity of the proletariat. We want to build the living national solidarity of the German people!” The Winter Fund’s main aim was to propagate and popularize the Nazi idea of a national community. The focus of the propaganda was to create an image of the party as a caring institution that was concerned about the welfare of the German people.
Support the Relief Organization Mother and Child, Goebbels in his inauguration address of the Mutter und Kind (Mother and Child) organization, in February 24, 1934 stated; “Mother and Child are the pledge for the immortality of the nation”. This was to address one of Hitler’s major concern over the falling German birth rate. The Organization sought to increase the birth rate by assisting mothers. The effort was primarily geared to help the mother in the home.
Jin Meisheng, The seeds have been well selected, the harvest is more bountiful every year, 1964.
Women in the Chinese propaganda posters are also depicted as fully equal to men, but like the Soviet Russia, they appear totally absent in the leadership roles.
Most of the times women jobs are depicted as menial agricultural works, like this poster by
…While men are doing serious industrial jobs, as this poster by Li Zongjin, called “Study the advanced production experience of the Soviet Union, struggle for the industrialization of our country” in 1953 shows. In the early years of the People’s Republic of China, the Soviet Union sent many experts to help. Here a Russian industrial expert is shown giving advice. The text at the top is a handwritten announcement of a Russian exhibition.