In May 2013 I did a piece on American vintage community posters from 1935-1943. Little did I know (until today) that there was a Soviet Propaganda Posters program running almost parallel to the one we had. (Why am I not surprised?) Just think about it. The Soviet Union (now Russia) was our biggest competitor and threat at the same time. (The Cold War, Space Race, nuclear ARMS race, etc.) The posters will be displayed @ The GRAD (Gallery for Russian Arts and Design) in London this summer.
Actually, if you look at the focus of each program they are different. The Soviet propaganda posters were specifically targeted to Western culture. Enticing visitors to come see the glamourous, beautiful, picturesque country of The USSR. Posters exuding “we are not the enemy, but a friendly, leisurely, gorgeous and modern place for a trip” with slick language, graphics and colors. The designs of the posters were of an avant garde or art deco type of style. That style was very recognizable and popular in America and Europe at the time.
American Posters For The People
Around 1935 the good ole’ U.S. of A. created The WPA (Works Projects Administration) to put people back to work. The affiliated FPA (Federal Art Project) put artists back to work. It started the Posters Division to enlighten, give hope and inform people of community activities. They were created to make public announcements (e.g. bridge openings, health concerns, cultural events) and give insight into the general welfare of Americans. These posters have an art deco look. However, they are even more stylized through the introduction of woodblock, silkscreening and lithography processing. A defining style and continuity runs through this series of posters that speaks “USA”.
Intourist – USSR Poster Program
Of course with a division named “Intourist” you can imagine the posters were focused on travel. These Soviet propaganda posters are superbly crafted, rare and highly collectable. But, the most glaring thing is, they represent a country that was never there! They were over the top. Some instances suggesting travel to the Soviet Union as exotic as a trip to The French Rivera. As a matter of fact, after examining the posters, you would be hard pressed to distinguish one place from the other. A sophisticated, luxurious destination never to be found.
Most of the USSR art deco travel posters were pre -World War II and the program started in 1929. So, it had a very short (if not highly productive) existence. But, after this alluring eloquent campaign to lure travelers from around the world, The Soviets shut it down. During the late 30’s the Soviet propaganda posters program was replaced by a a more “party” driven military / textile poster program promoting the union. Critics have noted these were propaganda driven, as well.