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CAPTAIN her NEST Peixot"to
air-raids imminent, with no wavering, fluctuating battle line on the western front at his door. Though the war overshadows the entire world, and regulates the thought of every individual in it, in America our indignation is not heightened by the actual sound of bombardment; we imagine the cries of the wounded, we do not hear them. The publicity campaign is urged, therefore, by a current that must travel three thousand miles. Yet that is not entirely true. War is sustained by Ideas and Ideals. War is supplied by material re
sources and the sacrifices of people. We have measured the need of Belgium by the ships laden with grain which have left our shores; we have measured the urgency for ships, by the empty docks which once held the Lusitania and the Tuscania; we have felt the call for men by the soldiers who have left our shores. It is all this which the artist must remember, as he sits in his studio evolving the pictures which must keep the nation stirred to action. Another consideration. Slogans are not merely fine phrases. They are born out of the alembic of the
The slogan is made to fit the moment, and the artist attaches himself to the slogan. That is the process by which most of the posters in America have been made. The public became aware of the artist and the slogan long before they knew that the artists in America had been mobilised. During the visit of Marshal Joffre to this country, they saw a card nailed to trees and fences—a card called Three Sisters, and picturing the crucial dates in the histories of France and America, 1776, 1789, and 1917. Insistently the picture came upon them as they turned street corners, as they went into stores. And gradually method came out of the widespread use of this poster. It no longer was a mere picture, but the symbol which Joffre’s visit presented. It is such publicity in its highest sense which Mr. Gibson’s committee has been asked to regulate. Appeal is the essential qualification of the poster. Henry Reuterdahl’s Help Your Country pictures a battleship under full steam, with its guns in action; it is aimed to stir the fighting blood. Albert Sterner’s Over There indicates the deeper appeal of patriotism which impels the man to enlist. W. T. Benda’s Stand Behind the Country's Girlhood is a dreamy embodiment of the Y. W. C. A.'s organisation; C. B. Falls’s Premiers au Feu pulls enlistment toward the marines. These random examples are typical of the all-embracing quality of the poster—a specific illustration of a general emotion; the pictorial embodiment of an idea, so simple in its composition that it will not miss fire, so evident in its intention that it will appeal to the simplest intellect, so colourful that it will catch the attention, so typical
that it tells the whole story. Such is the demand upon the artist, mobilised to help win the war with his pen and brush. So far, Mr. Gibson’s committee has supplied posters for thirty-six departments and organisations active in war service. And this does not mean alone that they have supplied pictures to be reproduced, but they have likewise sent artists out into the streets, to paint, as sign painters would. To the left of the New York Public Library building I recall seeing Mr. C. B. Falls when he painted, as though he were before his easel, that striking poster, Books Wanted for Our Men. To the right, with all the feeling of colour and design worthy of a canvas, is F. Luis Mora's striking panorama of the battle-field of France. Over the New York Treasury building, with the detail of mural painting, N. C. Wyeth and Henry Reuterdahl completed their decoration for the Third Liberty Loan—a picture ninety feet long and twenty-five feet high. This kind of publicity work illustrates what this war has most often emphasised—that the individual must be ready to school himself for any emergency. Even as specifications are laid down for the building of cantonments and for the construction of battleships, so are details furnished the artists who are now co-operating with the Government. This is how it is done. Mr. Gibson’s committee receives a letter which says in substance, We wish you to aid us in framing a suitable poster for shipyards and airplane factories, in which “the idea to be conveyed is that the worker, by keeping diligently on the job, is doing his bit just as much as the man in the trenches, and that it is his duty to put forth his best efforts. The poster must be twenty, inches by thirty inches.” With this in hand, Herbert Paus designed his picture, a stirring appeal for Labour to sustain the arms of the country. The Liberty Loan Committees have sought the co-operation of the artists in the same way. They have outlined the insistent note for each campaign, and as the world necessity became stronger, as Prussian menace became greater, the urge has increased. In consequence the artists who have drawn posters for the Liberty Loans have been allowed to increase the emotional appeal. It is now conceded that the German raids upon American hospitals
helped to bring the Third Liberty Loan far over the top. Could we not prophesy that in the posters for the Fourth Liberty Loan, the artists will picture this? Yet, rightly, there is reticence about the use of grewsomeness in posters; nothing should be suggested which would be either sickening or depressing. For the object of the poster is to stimulate. Recall that when Charles Lamb sent his book, Ulysees, to his publisher, Godwin, it was returned for some corrections. Children would be frightened by such and such incidents, suggested the cautious publisher, with his eye on over-squeamish parents. But Lamb wrote back, There is only one correction I will make, and that is where the incident strikes me as being disgusting. Such was the substance of his letter to Godwin. The same applies to the poster.
Public response to the artist's work is fickle. They like to look at Frank Brangwyn's American Sailors to the Rescue, or Charles Livingston Bull's The Two Eagles, but they want to own Howard Chandler Christy's Columbia's Call, because of its direct feminine appeal. Yet, as posters go, it is characterless. Popular demand, however, required that over a million copies of this poster be printed. The American public has not yet been schooled to look at the poster as anything more than a magazine illustration. I have before me a letter from one department, written to Mr. Gibson’s committee. It says, We want a poster with a child in it. The fundamental emotions have to be reached in order to make the public dig down into their pockets. It is not too much to say that a large part of the over-subscription to the recent Red Cross drive was due to A. E. Foringer's remarkable poster, The Greatest Mother in the World.
Every American artist of note is contributing to the poster output. Gibson’s House Manager, for the Food Saving Campaign, is done with the old dash of the days when he illustrated Richard Harding Davis’s Soldiers of Fortune; Joseph Pennell, with a method shaped by sketching and etching, has produced a poster for the ship-building “urge,” which loses none of its delicacy, however large it is reproduced—the list goes on interminably, including Blashfield, Harvey Dunn, Wallace Morgan, Adolph Treidler, and others. One must check off with the art directory.
We might expect that the artist’s usefulness would not be confined at home. When Walter Hale was alive, he showed us, by the visits he paid the front, what the pencil could do under fire. It was to be expected that when the American army got to France, the artist would be called also. In the Signal Corps of the United States army, there is a Major Kendall Banning, who was formerly the art-editor of System. It is through his advice and through General Pershing's call that eight captains’ commissions were offered to Mr. Gibson’s committee. Who would be the lucky men selected? Through a process known to the Division of Pictorial Publicity and to three officers in the army to whom the final selection was left, Captains Ernest Peixotto, Wallace Morgan, W. J. Aylward, Harry Townsend, Harvey Dunn, Walter Jack Duncan, George Harding and André Smith, now represent the American artists in France. They have not as yet taken sufficient root to indicate how they work. Their drawings will be official documents for the War Department. They are painters and illustrators, selected to work in any mediums required, - interpretative artists, who, in wash, pencil or crayon can illustrate; who, with brush, can record the colour of a battle; who, with pencil, can lay out scenes or detail structures; who could, if called upon, do decorative work.
Right here let it be emphasised that these are not the men attached to the Camouflage Corps. The latter come under the jurisdiction of the engineers; their work is a combination of carpentry, sculpture painting. But these captains are there strictly for pictorial work, for