Tactical weapons: Abram Games' wartime posters mixed sloganeering with a touch of surrealism and the promise of a brighter future. Iain Gale reports
Friday 22 July 1994
For Games, a Jewish Socialist artist, the fight against the Nazis meant more than merely defending England's green and pleasant land: his work demonstrates an uncompromising bluntness present in the output of few other wartime poster artists. Having produced a successful poster in 1941 to combat the spread of venereal disease, by August 1942 Games had become the War Office's first official Poster Designer.
Games' posters coerce us into reaction. Initial bafflement turns to intrigue and thence to horror or amusement. Few wartime posters can rival the ghoulish immediacy of Games's exhortation to keep children away from the spare 'blind' munitions left on firing ranges (right). He confuses scale and makes clever use of a classic Surrealist device: photography, tinted, transformed and juxtaposed with the painted or printed image to produce a heightened sense of reality.
The message of the 'Dig for Victory' campaign becomes graphically obvious as a knife and fork are changed into a fork and spade (left). This blurring of fantasy and reality is best exemplified in a series of posters he produced in 1942. A typical example shows 'Your Britain . . . Clean, airy and well planned dwellings. Fight for it now.' In another, a waif in a bombed-out ruin is contrasted with the shining frontage of a planned medical centre: 'Modern medicine means the maintenance of good health and the prevention and early detection of disease. Fight for it now.'
The promise is implicit. Fight for your country and we, the government, will make Britain 'a land fit for heroes'. So they fought and died and Britain won. Games had succeeded. But 50 years on the heroes are still waiting and ultimately this exhibition can teach only one lesson: it pays to advertise.
Imperial War Museum, SE1 (071-416 5000). To 29 Aug
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 2 Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
- 3 Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
- 4 Refugee crisis: Aylan's life was full of fear - in death, he is part of 'humanity washed ashore'
- 5 German police forced to ask public to stop bringing donations for refugees arriving by train
The real reason Eddie Redmayne was cast as a trans woman in The Danish Girl
First Look at Bryan Cranston transformed into LBJ for HBO’s ‘All the Way’ film
Idris Elba is ‘too street’ to play 007, says James Bond author
This little boy loves books so much that he cries when his mother stops reading to him
Does this Game of Thrones season 6 filming location give away an important character death?
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up