Poster art as a “weapon” in the Russian Revolution

Poster and propaganda art of the 20th century has always interested me. One can see through the visual imagery of the time the true essence of public opinion and the political ideology of the era. Working at the Gregg Museum of Art & Design this semester I noticed the Museum had an extensive collection of Russian Revolution (1918-1919) posters reprinted from the originals in 1966. Posters were a crucial part of the Russian Revolution. This medium served as the only voice of the government in a time where newspapers were not printed. The images were easily understood by the masses and conveyed simple as well as universal messages from the Communist party. Poster art served as an important weapon in this revolution and affected the minds of thousands.

Accession Number: 1986.016.010 Artist: Dmitry Moor Title: Have You Volunteered?  Year: Original: 1920, Reprint: 1960 Medium: Work on Paper Credit Line: Gift of Rene Ward

Accession Number: 1986.016.010
Artist: Dmitry Moor
Title: Have You Volunteered?
Year: Original: 1920, Reprint: 1960
Medium: Work on Paper
Credit Line: Gift of Rene Ward

A popular image, which is in the permanent collection at the Gregg Museum, states “Have you Volunteered?” The image displays a Russian solider in a red uniform and hat pointing out to the viewer, reminiscent of WWI U.S. Army recruiting posters. The man is not a decorated soldier, businessman or politician, but rather an average man who has joined the Army, a character many could connect with. The background of the image displays factories with black smoke rising from them (contrasting greatly to the red solider in the foreground). We can assume the colors of the image are used as a further tool of identification of the poster, with the red showing revolutionary elements and the black showing elements of capitalism and concern. In this setting, it appears as though the image is directed towards the workingman himself, questioning if he had enlisted, for it was the average working class citizen’s rights that the Communist party had set their sights on. This image is purposely simple in order to remain in the viewer’s mind and for the viewer to understand the message. To emphasis the importance of these posters as a tool or weapon in the Revolution further, we see the text at the bottom declaring, “Anyone who tears down or covers up this poster- is committing a counter-revolutionary act.

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During the 2014 Sochi Opening Olympic Ceremonies, it amazed me to see the iconic imagery and symbolism once included in Russian Revolution posters, acted out as a part of the Russian history segment of the ceremony (Image from TIME magazine shown below). It occurred to me some of the “red” imagery of industrialization and progress have remained as a symbol of this significant movement and is used to represent the country to this day.

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Looking at posters and other non-traditional art while interning at the Gregg Museum, has taught me the importance of the inclusion of all mediums to be represented in a collection. It is truly amazing how much information one can gain about a particular moment in history through a single image even one not necessarily intended as art.

-Rose Cuomo, Spring 2014 Intern

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