In the United States, art and politics have long been uneasy bedfellows. This has largely been true since the onset of the Cold War, which effectively silenced many artists who had been weaned on the radical, leftist ideologies that had prevailed among the American avant-garde during the Twenties and Thirties.
Today, the trend has reversed itself somewhat. On the whole, however, art remains more an instrument of personal expression (or simply “art for art’s sake”) than a means for making big political statements.
But even if artists try to stay away from politics, politics is by no means devoid of art. One can see this every election year, when Americans are inundated with paraphernalia from various political campaigns: posters, flyers, buttons bumper stickers, etc. Among these, posters tend to be the most interesting and the most likely to yield iconic cultural images.
So, in honor of election day 2014, let’s take look back at the history of the too-often neglected art of the campaign poster.
The first American president to use campaign posters to great effect was John Quincy Adams, who won the hotly contested election of 1824. They began to take on more interesting forms, however, during the presidential election of 1840, which saw the coming out party of Whig Party candidate and Indian Wars veteran William Henry Harrison.
Running under the slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too”, Harrison styled himself as a bona fide Continue reading Art and Electioneering: A Short History of Campaign Posters