The Image of War in America and the Image of America in War: the U.S. Visual Propaganda Strategies in 1939-1945




World War II, American art, visual propaganda, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), F. D. Roosevelt, W. Willkie


The article explores the strategy of American visual propaganda during World War II. The author demonstrates how the methods and forms of propaganda reflected the general trends in the socio-political life of the United States from 1939 to 1945. 

The strategies adopted by the state were aimed at shaping the image of the war within the country, which was geographically distant from the theaters of war, as well as creating practices for representing the image of America in the global conflict. This approach was driven by the fact that the issue of relations between the United States and the outside world, particularly with European countries, was traditionally associated with the problem of self-identification of Americans, who were born as a nation in the struggle against the former metropole. It has been established that the success of military propaganda was ensured, in particular, by the infrastructure of social relations in the field of art created by the New Deal reforms, namely, the Federal Art Project (FAP) program. Collaborating with the state in the 1930s, artists emphasised the «American» and democratic nature of US art, which allowed it to be successfully instrumentalised during the war to serve ideological needs. 

According to the author, one of the most demonstrative examples is the interpretation of the concept of «Four Freedoms» by F. D. Roosevelt in the paintings of N. Rockwell, who «translated» the president's abstract statements into a visual language understandable to the people. Several projects organized by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, which were supported by US ministries, are also indicative. These include the 1941 war poster competition and the exhibition project «Airways to Peace. An Exhibition of Geography for the Future,» featuring politician W. Willkie. Due to the predominant use of radio and cinema in the dissemination of propaganda, the work of MoMA during World War II acquired special significance: both the artist and the viewer were endowed with an important social function of participating in the defense of the country's freedom and independence. 

The article shows how the direct involvement of the population in the process of propagating (re)production contributed to the rapid acceptance by Americans of the political goals of the United States during the war and in the post-war world.





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How to Cite

The Image of War in America and the Image of America in War: the U.S. Visual Propaganda Strategies in 1939-1945. (2023). Text and Image: Essential Problems in Art History, 1(15), 29–42.