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Hope & Fear

Propaganda of the Great War

The “Great War” in Europe began in 1914. Despite an earlier pledge of neutrality or “America first,” the US entered combat April 6, 1917. To commemorate the 100th anniversary year of America’s entry into World War I, Philbrook presents wartime propaganda art from the Museum’s permanent collection. Spread across two galleries, Hope & Fear vividly illustrates two opposing approaches to this conflict. One gallery includes the pro-war posters while the second features the deeply disconcerting War Series lithographs by George Bellows.

Some of America’s most well-known illustrators created posters for the war effort, intended to assist the government in persuading citizens to embrace the importance of US involvement in “Europe’s war.” Highly positive, nationalistic, and popularly accessible, the poster images appeared in newspapers and magazines or as outdoor advertising with messages that encouraged soldiers to enlist or every day citizens to make financial contributions and voluntarily ration food, among others.

George Bellows’s dark, tragic, War Series lithographs of 1918 live on the other side of the spectrum through their portrayal of wartime brutalities and victims. These highly pained scenes illustrate Bellows’s personal take on the atrocities German soldiers inflicted upon the innocent civilians of neutral Belgium.

On view through early November, Hope & Fear remains on view through mid-November 2017 as co-organized by Philbrook Chief Curator Catherine Whitney and Librarian/Archivist Thomas Young.

Curated by Catherine Whitney and Thomas E. Young.

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