Wednesday, May 02, 2018

May Masterpiece of the Month: I Want You for U.S. Army by James Montgomery Flagg

Who Made It?
An American illustrator named James Montgomery Flagg created the artwork for this poster in 1916.

Where Is the REAL One?
Many copies of this poster exist and are still printed today, but early copies from 1917 can be found in the collections of museums such as the Smithsonian Museum of American History and The Library of Congress in Washington D.C and The Museum of Modern Art in New York City, NY.

Why Is It Important?
Easily recognized as America's most famous poster, I Want You... was originally published for the cover of a July issue of Leslie's Weekly magazine in 1916 to motivate people's support and participation in various war efforts during World War One (WWI). The magazine version read: "What Are You Doing for Preparedness?"
Uncle Sam is a commonly used "personification" for the United States. A personification is a character used to represent a place or idea. Uncle Sam had been used in newspapers, books and advertisements for many years before Flagg decided to use the image of him in this poster illustration. But unlike the earlier versions of Uncle Sam, which showed as a weak old man, Flagg transformed him into a strong, take-charge leader. Flagg usually drew from models but actually used himself as the model for Uncle Sam.
During WWI, I Want You became a popular poster that was printed over 4 million times. People were so struck but its message that it was used again to enlist support during World War II! In fact, posters like this were used during WWII to instill a positive outlook, a sense of patriotism and confidence. Every man, woman and child was expected to help with the war effort by conserving and recycling resources. The colorful, graphic designs created strong emotions in people.