When Artists Went to War

Original posters from the world wars at Landmarks Gallery

Jun. 20, 2017
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A hundred years ago this summer, the United States mobilized industry and manpower—and the power of women to fill men’s places on the home front—as the nation prepared to go to war. It wasn’t just any old oversees campaign. Pres. Woodrow Wilson promised it would be the “war to end all wars.” But the conflict now known as World War I ended nothing beyond the stability of European society, setting the stage for the rise of dictators and the Holocaust as well as a sequel, World War II.

With July 4 just around the corner, Landmarks Gallery (231 N. 76th St.) dipped into its archives for a display and sale of original war posters, most from World War I but a few from World War II. Most are priced at $300 or less.

One of the most striking images from the collection is a World War I lithograph mounted on linen entitled “Buy United States Government War Savings Stamps.” The 40 x 30 inch image depicts a queue of immigrants from various backgrounds, Western Europe through the Near East, lining up at a window staffed by Uncle Sam to support their adopted homeland. They are purchasing war stamps, an inexpensive alternative to bonds. The U.S. Treasury commissioned the poster from an immigrant, William Balfour Ker, a socialist and student of the acclaimed illustrator Howard Pyle.

One poster offers a dramatic rendition of the war at sea. “Invest in the Liberty Loan” depicts a U.S. destroyer interposed between a surfaced U-boat and its target, a merchant pushing through rough waters. Illinois-born maritime painter and etcher LA Shafer signed the poster.

The items on display were primarily concerned with morale at home. “Sure! He’ll Finish the Job” by Gerrit A. Beneker, a painter known primarily for his scenes of industry, shows a blue-collar worker with a confident face and sleeves rolled up, ready to do his bit for victory.

Landmarks Gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.


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