The upcoming July 4 holiday plus the hoohah about Megan Rapinoe got me thinking about politics and patriotism and art. (I’m always thinking about art.) No matter their politics, I think we can agree most people we know love their country. They – and you, and I – love the United States of America. Art and photography has long been used to gin up patriotic enthusiasm – Declaration of Independence, (1818), commissioned to help unite the fractious new states, comes to mind – as well as all those propaganda posters of the World Wars I and II. However, that doesn’t mean we mindlessly think the United States is the perfect place on the planet. The same goes for art and artists.
Artists are patriots, too
I know of very few artists who hate their country. Their criticisms are more in the line of tough love. If you don’t speak out, the thinking goes, you’re willing to sit down and shut up and just accept it.
Perhaps the most famous anti-war painting is Guernica, by Pablo Picasso (top). It was painted in 1937 in reaction to the bombing of the city of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. It was considered so profound that it was made into a large tapestry that now hangs in the United Nations headquarters in New York. Matthew Brady’s photographs of the dead and wounded during the American Civil War brought home the cost of war in a way that had never before happened.
A little closer to today is The Problem We All Live With, by Mr. Warm Fuzzies himself, Norman Rockwell. Sure, Rockwell celebrated the traditional American moments of home and country, but that did not blind him to the problems that were around him.
The use of art and photography for political persuasion continues. Possibly more than you are aware. What images have you seen recently that got you going?