ART HISTORY Art fosters the urge to document our surroundings, produce beauty, and germinate the growth of ideas.
In the late 1800s, the invention of the paint tube allowed artists to work outdoors. That mobility, along with the rise of photography and new advancements in various printing technologies, freed artists to challenge the traditional definitions and restrictions of their mediums. Attention was given to the reality of life, natural beauty, and secular events. Subject matter began to reflect real people and everyday life.
Art was now more instrumental than ever in educating others about one’s surroundings and shining light on issues that demanded action. Unique artworks were accessible to the public, and were restorative in nature. Women’s suffrage, civil rights, hazardous conditions in the workplace, economic hardship, and the tragedy of war were all vital issues strongly expressed in this emerging art form.
HISTORICAL REFERENCES IN ART Throughout history, art and art practices have been used as tools to lift voices and encourage change. Painters who were commissioned to depict the church and nobility in their paintings began to reveal new faces of humanity in their art. In Jean-Francois Millet's painting The Gleaners (1857) we see people in the fields, which shares a different point of view. Years later Grant Wood sets an example by painting the portraits of farmers, American Gothic (1930). Art that once highlighted the lifestyle of royalty now shifts to the depiction of a truer reality.
In the late 1800s, the Women's Suffrage movement demanded change by calling for gender equality across a variety of global regions. The power of unity was achieved through illustrative graphics.
During WWI and WWII, Victory Gardens were promoted as food for defense. Citizens were encouraged to plant vegetable, fruit and herb gardens at private residences and public places in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Germany. The homegrown food, used along with food stamps, reduced pressure on the public food supply.
Picasso’s Guernica (1937) was created as a response to the bombing of Guernica to show the suffering of war. As a public mural the art memorializes those who died and cautions us against future atrocities.
WWII posters shaped our attitudes by encouraging a diverse agenda, including acceptance of women in the workplace, patriotism, and the cultivation of industrial hemp. A nation came together in the caring and a willingness to make sacrifices for the greater good.
The WPA (Works Progress Administration) created jobs and workers' rights to stimulate economic security in a time when a nation had to rebuild. Programs, like the Civilian Conservation Corps, used art to promote new skills and the well being of the population as a whole.
The Civil Rights movement evoked universal fundamentals of freedom, justice, and equal protection under the law. Artwork demanded a new conversation and awareness, while instilling pride and a call to action.
Flower Power encouraged non-violent resistance during the Vietnam War era promoting love not war. Posters became a quick and accessible medium with integral symbols that commented on human pacifism. Graphics expressed personal opinions and took strong stands while remaining joyful and hopeful.
The Occupy Movement is the international protest movement against social and economic inequality. It began by one image produced by Adbusters in 2010. Millions of posters followed with unifying slogans for the 99%, promoting facts and data, and stirring emotion for recognizing the power that financial institutions hold over individual lives.
The Gleaners, 1857, Jean-François Millet (1814–1875) Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France
American Gothic, Friends of American Art Collection, The Art Institute of Chicago
Votes for Women Everywhere, Cover for "Votes for Women" journal published by Pethick-Lawrence 1907
Woman's Hour has Stuck, Woman Suffrage poster 1917
National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) umbrella organization for men and women formed in 1897
Dorothea Lange (1936-1965) Migrant Mother, Florence Owens Thompson, The United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) Guernica, 1937 Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain
Liberation (1945), Ben Shahn (1898-1969) MoMA Collection
Grow Hemp, movie poster for The USDA films called "Hemp For Victory" 1942 We can do it! J. Howard Miller, 1943 for Westinghouse Electric to boost morale
Women in the War, 1942 by United States War Manpower Commission
Be careful near machinery, The Work Projects Administration (WPA) Poster Collection, 1938 Library of Congress Prints and Photographs
Don't kill our wild life , The Work Projects Administration (WPA) Poster Collection, 1938 Library of Congress Prints and Photographs
Eat Fruit, Be Healthy , The Work Projects Administration (WPA) Poster Collection, 1938 Library of Congress Prints and Photographs
Human Rights (cropped), International Declaration of Human Rights Day, December 10th
I Am a Man, Designed for the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike
All Human Beings are born Free, International Declaration of Human Rights
Now, The Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee (SNCC) 1963
Hell No We Won't Go, anonymous, 1960s
War is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things, 1968. Lorraine Art Schneider (1925-1972)
Peace, Love, Flower, anonymous, 1960s
Occupy Together, Molly Fair, occuprint.org
Time's Up For the 1%, Dave Loewenstein, occuprint.org
Occupy Wall Street, Alexandra Clotfelter, occuprint.org