Winter 2007

War draw and jaw

War Posters: Weapons of Mass Communication

By James Aulich
Thames & Hudson, £19.95

The powerful images in James Aulich’s War Posters: Weapons of Mass Communication (Thames & Hudson, £19.95) come from the Imperial War Museum in London, which holds the largest collection of its kind. The book accompanies an exhibition that runs until 30 March 2008, with subject matter stretching from the gung-ho beginnings of the First World War to the ongoing conflict in Iraq. Whether their purpose is protest or propaganda, the posters’ visceral, visual statements make a strong emotional impact.

From time to time, the book’s art direction draws our attention to visual similarities that echo across the ages: the hooded figure in Ben Shahn’s This Is Nazi Brutality (1942) appears opposite the Abu Ghraib figure (also seen in the Apple silhouette iRaq parody) in End the Torture (2004). Smash Fascism (1936) by Pere Català Pic (Roca) is paired with F. H. K. Henrion’s untitled 1944 tribute to the Axis powers: both images make graphic use of a breaking swastika.