War Poster of The United States Navy by Sir Frank Brangwyn RA RWS PRBA HRSA, 1867-1956. Etching on zinc, 30 ¼ x 23 ½ inches. Source: Sparrow, Prints and Drawings by Frank Brangwyn, facing 192. The title under the plate is “The Smaller Poster of the United States Navy”
Commentary by Walter Shaw Sparrow
Was it not Ruskin who said that there are times when men and nations must be shocked into thought and swift effectual action? Much better a too painful truth than those far too sanguine officials who said, more than once, that the submarine danger was "well in hand." . . . Two of Brangwyn's U-boat cartoons were designed for the U.S.A. Navy and for American streets. Are these, do you think, the most effectual posters with which our Allied cause has been explained and aided? I know none that equals them. They have but one blemish, and it is noticed by public opinion, whose verdicts in our street galleries cannot be questioned after it is given. . . .[The face of the sailor] is early prehistoric, almost simian. And it is not meant for a German face. It belongs to an Allied seaman. Let us have noble faces in the men to whom we owe our all.. . .
All the rest in Brangwyn's posters for the U.S.A. Navy is incantation. It weighs upon all minds a very deep and fateful warning. Even Gericault's noble and heroic shipwreck, "Le Radeau de la Meduse," its modelling being overdone and its shadows too black and bituminous, looks a sea tragedy from a studio, compared with these lithographs, with their bluff salt air drenched with rain, and their swirling waters peopled with human tragedies. The smaller one (58" by 38"), masterly as a composition, has a colour scheme of blue, gray, buff and white, while the larger is printed in black and relieved by buff, white, and gray. Brangwyn has done nothing better in his many marines than the seaman who stands half erect and, with a masterful gesture full of anger under discipline, points to the sinking vessel, and cries to the Allied will, "Stop this! Help your country! Enlist your hearts in the Navy!" There is also a baby asleep, and the sleep is full of sea cold and its numbness. Who is not deeply touched by this little face? There are two posters where the children are not felt as this baby's face is drawn; they neither charm by their good looks nor strike awe by their suffering; and public opinion likes children in art to rule as enchanted princes and princesses, however humbly they may be dressed. [192-93]
Formatting and text by George P. Landow. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit Internet Archive and the Ontario College of Art and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]
Sparrow, Walter Shaw. Prints and Drawings of Frank Brangwyn with Some Other Phases of His Art. London: John Lane, 1919. Internet Archive version of a copy in the Ontario College of Art. Web. 28 December 2012.
Last modified 28 December 2012