University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

‘Real war ammunition’: The National War Poster Competition, 1942

Toon, Wendy ORCID: (2015) ‘Real war ammunition’: The National War Poster Competition, 1942. In: Symposium on Art from the Second World War, 20 November, University of St Andrews. (Unpublished)

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In November 1942 the Museum of Modern Art, NY [MoMA] responded to the upcoming anniversary of US involvement in the war by organizing the National War Poster Competition. This competition, jointly sponsored by MoMA, Artists for Victory Inc. and the Council for Democracy, addressed issues of a war-torn world, with categories for submissions that included “The Nature of the Enemy”, which be the focus of this paper. President of Artists for Victory, Hobart Nichols, explained: ‘The great body of American artists, …, wanted to be of service in this crisis and hoped to use their special ability both to further the prosecution of the war and to maintain the cultural standards that would surely be lost if we were defeated.’ Earlier he had explained: ‘We confidently expect that the competition will be the means of placing the services of more artists and photographers at the disposal of the government.’
This competition is significant in a number of ways. First, it was a national competition. Initially the posters were displayed at MoMA, but the resulting exhibition would also embark on a national tour in 1943. Second, it was given wide coverage via Life Magazine. Third, the Office of War Information was involved, conducting a survey of visitors and publishing a number of the winning poster entries. Fourthly, the outputs represent a version “from below” about the “Nature of the Enemy”. Finally, President Roosevelt considered that the response to the competition exemplified ‘a voluntary, spontaneous contribution [by artists] to the war.’ This paper will explore the relationship between wartime art and propaganda in relation to enemy image creation. As the results of the competition show this was a version of the enemy that the government approved of.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D731 World War II
D History General and Old World > DD Germany
D History General and Old World > DS Asia
E History America > E151 United States (General)
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
Divisions: College of Arts, Humanities and Education > School of Humanities
Depositing User: Wendy Toon
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2022 15:16
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2022 15:16

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