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Posters of the Spanish Civil War at the Wolfsonian

The Art Deco war comes to Florida International University

The Spanish Civil War was ground-breaking for many regrettable reasons: it marked the advent of blitzkrieg, total warfare, concerted propaganda and civilian atrocities on a scale hitherto unknown. Now that the war is a receding memory for most, what was once propaganda can be appreciated for its artistry. The Spanish Civil War was, after all, the first and only Art Deco war. Modern warfare was mirrored by Modernist typography, influenced by the 1920s pioneers from Russia and Germany, ironically the nations which supported the Republicans and the Nationalists respectively. The Nazis tested all their latest weapons in Spain as a trial run for World War II—think of the destruction of Guernica, immortalised by Picasso. Meanwhile America and other European countries refused to sell arms to the elected government (the Republicans), fearing war with Germany. This show (until 16 February) does not include the sub-Nazi posters of Franco and the Nationalists, but focuses instead on the left-leaning Republicans. Thus there are calls to arms, denunciations of the Nationalists as Nazi puppets and appeals for increased production to win the war on the home front. Ultimately Franco won, and remained dictator until his death in 1975, but these posters show the determined reaction of people fighting for ideological freedom.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 131 December 2002