Well, this is certainly pugnacious—but what propaganda isn’t, really? It takes no learned scholar to discern that this poster means business. Euphemism wasn’t really of interest to the United States in December 1941, when its resistance to entering World War II was abruptly terminated by the infamous events in Pearl Harbor. The nation was catapulted into the global turmoil that had already blurred national boundaries and sent refugees seeking shelter in other countries all over the world. The blending of stylistic influences resulting from emigration, immigration, and escape had a tremendous impact on both art and design.

Jean Carlu was born in 1900 in France to a family of architects. Early in his fledgling career as a graphic designer, Carlu was exposed to Cubism, a style that continually surfaces in his graphic work. In 1939, he visited the United States for the New York World’s Fair, but extended his stay as he became involved in the escalating war effort, contributing to the design of propaganda posters.

In a media landscape increasingly cluttered by graphics and messaging due to the rise of cinema and radio and the involvement of the United States in the war, Carlu recognized that bolder and more shocking visuals were necessary to attract attention. This “shock value” is clearly evident in Give ‘Em Both Barrels through Carlu’s use of a bombastic yellow combined with violent imagery of gunmen. The color choice sacrifices traditionally patriotic reds and blues in favor of a more arresting hue, intended to bolster emotion. Informed by the geometric shapes of Cubism, Carlu’s imagery consists of bold, simple graphics that communicate immediately to elicit a reaction. Carlu hoped to agitate and inspire with this poster, as “propaganda is that art of persuasion, and propaganda arts arouse emotions and promote beliefs and convictions.”[1]

[1] Peggy A. Loar, “Pondering the Products of Propaganda: Art and Thought on the Periphery,” The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts, vol. 16 (Summer, 1990): p. 40-53.


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