Member Preview: "Weapons of Mass Seduction"
Unidentified artist (British, active mid-twentieth century), "Telling a Friend May Mean Telling the Enemy (Navy)," ca. 1940–1942. Color lithograph poster Sheet: 29 15/16 x 19 15/16 in. (76 x 50.6 cm). Printed by J. Weiner Ltd., London, for H. M. Stationery Office. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Museum collection, X1988.4.44
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Today a single tweet can reach millions of people instantaneously, but prior to the internet age, the mechanics of shaping public opinion by spreading information and ideas was more regulated, hierarchical, and specialized. For instance, during the First World War, complex military operations were needed to drop propaganda leaflet bombs from airplanes, saturating the landscape with paper messages targeting enemy soldiers and civilians. Ephemeral printed materials, in addition to radio broadcasts and motion pictures, were the primary vehicles of propaganda during the first half of the twentieth century. Among the most powerful tools of psychological warfare, propaganda posters weaponized the art of graphic design.
This exhibition features a selection of World War I and II–era posters from the collection of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, shown alongside films, ephemera, and textiles from the 1910s to the 1940s. The design and content of these works demonstrate consistent strategies for selling ideas and manipulating public opinion that persist to the present day.
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