In the early 1940s, in theatres, shop fronts, and railway stations, from billboards and hoardings everywhere, heroic soldiers and citizens exhorted New Zealanders to support the war effort. Posters designed by some of the country’s best commercial artists stirred the public with compelling images and emotionally loaded messages.
New Zealand’s war posters echoed thousands of others by artists around the world. As a propaganda tool they were cheap and easy to make, they gave wide coverage and were easily replaced as the war’s unfolding events changed government priorities. They urged people to join the armed forces, volunteer, lend money, and work harder and faster.
As an art form and a means of communication, the poster is still one of the most effective ways to get a message across to a busy public. You pass hundreds every week on city streets. This compact and accessible exhibition shows some of New Zealand’s more enduring examples – World War II posters that survived both the paste-up and the sixty years since.
Duty Calls! also presents a fascinating snapshot of society in time of conflict. In a model for the concerted poster campaigns from protest groups decades later, the ‘hearts and minds’ appeal of these works is clear – support the war.