The Art of War

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In 1917, as the United States entered World War I, President Woodrow Wilson formed Committee on Public Information as one means to support the cause of American troops abroad through propaganda. The CPI’s chairman, George Creel, a journalist and political advocate, appealed to prominent illustrator Charles Dana Gibson for assistance in assembling a faction of professionals to take up the cause of preparing posters and other visual messages in support of the war effort, which came to be called the Division of Pictorial Publicity.

Those assembled included such famous artists as Charles Buckles Falls, Charles D. Williams, Louis D. Fancher, Frederick G. Cooper, Robert J. Wildhack, James Montgomery Flagg, Joseph Pennell and N. C. Wyeth. In total, some 300 artists, painters, designers, illustrators and 33 cartoonists produced works for 58 separate government agencies.

The Art of War

The patriotic use of artwork contributed greatly to the Allied victory, and the artists received due recognition from the government. One high official stated, “Charles Dana Gibson and the Division of Pictorial Publicity did work of immense value in helping to win the war. Their services were of more value to the government in forming public opinion than all other agencies put together. No other group, no other profession did as much.”

The Knights of Columbus was active in war relief efforts in Europe, and its mission and funding was aided by the artists. The Knights of Columbus Museum is pleased to display reproductions of posters from its own collection to recount both the popularity and effectiveness of the Art of War.