Propaganda Art

In the second chapter of Rowan Williams’ book Grace and Necessity, Williams’ goes in depth specifically about David Jones, a painter and a poet. The chapter begins with a brief overview of Eric Gill and some of his shared beliefs with Maritain. There were many things in this chapter that are worthy of a blog post and much too meaty to condense. But there is one statement that struck me the most.

Throughout history there has been much controversy and response to the use of propaganda. I personally have found it to be some of my favorite pieces of artwork. The Modern Movement has produced some of the most interesting works of art and designs. Some of my favorites include: J. Howard Miller, Norman Rockwell, and Jim Fitzpatrick.

Recently, it seems that propaganda has been much more relevant. With different social issues that the world is facing, propaganda art seems to be making more of an appearance. Today, propaganda is being used as a way to divide or unite. Various movements have risen, such as Kony 2012 (a movement of Invisible Children to remove the use of child soldiers in Uganda), the presidency of Obama in 2008, and marriage equality in America. There is also propaganda being produced today that depicts hostility, such as North Korea’s views on Americans.

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Currently, two of my favorite propaganda artists are: Shepard Fairey, a former street artist, and current British street artist, Banksy. Their work is very clever and thought provoking. Banksy’s work depicts controversial imagery, yet he doesn’t provide information, forcing the viewer to create their interpretation.

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All this said, it was Eric Gill’s belief that, “art which is not propaganda is simply aesthetics” (49). Williams continues to explain that art must be done in service of the community. Interestingly, the work of the previously mentioned artists sole purpose is to capture the attention of a specific audience and inflict a response.

“Art which is not propaganda is simply aesthetics.” Eric Gill

It’s interesting and a bit frightening to call the propaganda produced by North Korea art. Nonetheless, an interesting point is brought up. Although we may not agree with the message behind the art or necessarily believe in the movement, it does not keep it from being art.


Megg’s History of Visual Communitcation


6 thoughts on “Propaganda Art

  1. Janet, you have broadened my knowledge of Eric Gill and connected me to the propagandist’s art. I realized the old Cold War propaganda and grew up with it as far back as the 1940–50–60’s and then sort of lost interest in it when the cold war was not so scary; but I began to pay attention to the Feminist’s movement and their propaganda. I am so glad to be educated that it is Art—I have never connected it that way, even reading about Eric Gill, it did not click with me until your blog. GOOD JOB !! Jean

  2. I like how you took the reading and made it relative to something that you see in design and art today. What needed expanding a bit is that Gil is used as a “bad” example of art-making and art-theory. That artwork needs to be MORE than propaganda, ends up being Williams’ point using the artist David Jones who worked with what was in front of him, but saw more than what there is…. With that in mind, I would find it curious to hear your critique of our “current” propagandists and whether you think what they make or do is good? Excellent slide show and images. A lot of fun to read too!

    • Well, I completely misunderstood Williams’ point. Ha! But, in a sense, I am glad that he disagrees with Gill. Gill had an interesting perspective on things. There is much power in propaganda and it can be used for good or to hurt others. It seems to me that propaganda is making a change today for the better (at least in the US) where the millennials generation is looking for a cause to support. So I can see how propaganda can be art, but I could also see how art could be more than propaganda. Overall, I think that propaganda shouldn’t be underestimated, because it shows the power that artistic creativity and visual images can have on a population.

  3. I love how you were able to connect Gill’s view on propaganda to current pieces of propaganda. Your thoughts are so relevant and applicable which made Gill’s thoughts easier to apply.

  4. I didn’t know about how art as propaganda was being used in North Korea. That is really interesting. It makes me thing about Soviet propaganda art from WWII. When we were on Juniors abroad, my husband picked up a packet of prints of these posters and it was fascinating looking at them. I can definitely see how brainwashing it would be if these posters everywhere I turned.

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