Public Images: Art as Propaganda

Imagery in propaganda posters offer a powerful commentary on socio-political events. It offered a visual aid that would capture the attention of passersby. Such images would often be visually striking or inflammatory to capture the reader’s attention quickly like modern day clickbait thumbnails. But they also served as a means of conveying complex political messages without the need for dense walls of text which might alienate those with less reading comprehension.  Furthermore, art could be used to convey scenes from the revolution to illustrate what it looked like from contemporary eyewitnesses. Art was used in the previous French Revolutions to beneficial effects and is duly common on posters from the 1848 Revolution as well. The following posters explore the interplay of words and imagery in propaganda posters from 1848 France. In these two examples we explore the visualization of the words while one example focuses instead on the significance of words and their impact on viewers.

The imagery of this poster is interpreted as a commentary on the individuals associated with politics. These individuals could be politicians, members of the government or political candidates. The commentary is how they are visualised as butterflies with a working member of society trying to catch them with a net. This could be interpreted as the working class society of Paris constantly reaching to catch the political, whose political sneakiness allows them to cause trouble and slip away as they watch the consequences. This poster captures this theme as the figure with the net is trying to catch the politicians before they can get away. The actual words in this poster are poetic and softly written. The words do not immediately align with the imagery depicted, although three must have been a purpose connecting the imagery to the words. In a way visualizing the political commentary. 

The imagery in this poster is of a figure who stands on top of a pile of rubble, with a flag in one hand there is a celebration of victory approaching. This poster exemplifies the themes of victory, celebration, and the immense feelings of nationalism in France following the events of 1848. Within the text, the city of Paris has become a place of celebration, of democracy, hope and happiness. In most cases a picture speaks one thousand words, however in this poster, the picture brings the words to life, giving them more impact on viewers. Within the text, “ a whole people had only one heart, one feeling; the Father; and, Long Live the Republic.” The figure in the posters image is leading the people of Paris towards a celebratory end, described as a democratic celebration with a feast for everyone. Mentions of Opera and music celebrations, clothes being donated to the elderly who suffer, along with the illuminations of central budlings along the Champs-Elysées and fireworks into the night. In the broader context of imagery used in propaganda, this poster explores the celebratory aspect of the 1848 events instead of a political commentary. The figure in this poster proudly leads the people of Paris towards brighter days. 

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