Poster: A Red Present to the White Pan, A Red Gift to the White Pole, 1920.  Designed by Dmitri Moor. Museum purchase through the gift of Mrs. John Innes Kane, 1992-123-1.

Bad Things Come in Large Packages

The color palette of contrasting red, black and white symbolized Russia’s Communist Revolution and represent the polarities in ideologies between the Socialist Reds and the Whites of the aristocracy. This Constructivist theory of art as political message was brilliantly depicted in El Lissitzky’s Beat the Whites With The Red Wedge, 1919.

Rather than use abstract forms of Russian Constructivism to promote Russia’s Communist ideology, this poster depicts a more literal interpretation, promoting Russia’s aggression over Poland in the post revolution era. Two strapping members of the proletariat dressed in red, cheekily present a missile as a gift to a white figure in the background.  The poster reads, “A Red Present to the White Pan” at the top and “Advance this Package at Pan’s Forehead” below.  So who then is Pan?  The figure, rendered as having a small, yet bloated physique, curly-q moustache, saber and spurs is meant to represent Pan Tadeusz, Poland’s national folk hero since the days of the Napoleonic Wars. Written by Adam Mickiewicz, the story, named for the hero Pan Tadeusz , was and is recognized as the national epic of Poland and came to symbolize the resilience of Polish identity and culture despite continued invasions from both Russia and Western Europe.

In this piece of war propaganda Russia is clearly exploiting Polish morale, polarizing once again the theme of red and white.  Despite the aggressive tone of this poster, it was Poland who proved triumphant, winning their independence at the decisive Battle of Warsaw in 1920.

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