Art, Propaganda – Which is which ?

Throughout history, propaganda has used graphics to get its message across – from the paintings of Holbein during the 15th century to the politics of the current day.

But can they truly be considered as art?

Holbein’s paintings have been welcomed into the canon of art history since they were painted – this quite understandable due to his paintings high levels of draughtsmanship and painterly skill.

But can the same be said of of Stalinist era propaganda posters?

I would argue that it is…

Whilst the extremities of Soviet Russia cannot be forgotten the cultural output created in hero-worship of Stalin created an artistic style all of its own that, it can be seen, has influenced many artists and movements since.

For me, the work of Barbara Kruger shows direct links to the graphic style of many soviet era posters (see below) – Kruger herself has received much critical acclaim for her photomontage works in the later part of the 20th century. Consequently there are clearly similarities and cultural reference points expected of the viewer.


Much as with the high renaissance art of yesteryear, the portraits, posters and slogans of propaganda have become, over the years commonly known marks in time. Everyone is familiar with the face of Kitchener glaring  out of the World War 1 recruitment poster and everyone knows the various election posters of American presidents campaigns.

Whilst politics has its own agenda, the biproduct of visual culture that it creates lives on in popular culture and is often satirised and changed and popularised.

Clearly propaganda’s primary motive is to convince and in the process of doing as such often produces memorable lasting images.







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