It looks like the internet has been taken over by politics, so artMEAT is jumping on this bandwagon to take a look at campaign poster art throughout American History. It is fascinating to see how slogans, artwork, and the ideas behind the posters were shaped by the politics and art styles of the time. Let’s take a look:
Andrew Jackson vs. Henry Clay, 1832: Henry Clay who ran against Jackson for his second term wanted to try a new approach to defeating this “Man of the People.” He decided to portray Jackson as a King. This campaign did not do much to take down Andrew Jackson’s every man appeal. Early campaign posters were black & white and usually contained a large portrait and a short slogan. In this case Clay decided to feature Jackson and use the slogan “King Andrew the First.”
Abraham Lincoln vs. Stephen Douglas, 1860: This election is famous for a series of debates featuring the two opponents. Lincoln delivered such an amazing performance at these debates that he became instantly famous and his image was everywhere. El Biejo Onesto Abe cigarettes began using his image on their products without his permission. Lincoln went on to win this election by a huge margin. This is not a campaign poster but it shows how important popularity has been in American politics.
Robert F. Kennedy, 1968: The 60’s were a turbulent time for American politics. During this primary season, LBJ and RFK had quite the feud brewing. Some believe LBJ withdrew from the 1968 race because he thought Bobby would win by a landslide. This poster nods to the psychedelic art of the 60s and paints RFK as the groovy choice. RFK was very popular with young people and his campaign was looking very promising when he won in California on June 4th. His death along with those of his brother, JFK, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. put an end to the progressive 1960s and took all of the momentum out of the Democratic race, leading Richard Nixon to win over Hubert Humphrey.
Ronald Reagan vs. Walter Mondale, 1984: When Walter Mondale decided to take on Ronald Reagan for his second term he thought a tribute to the Romanticism of Delacroix would help him beat the incumbent. It is an interesting choice to put the candidate in the background and include his choice for Vice President, Geraldine Ferraro, as the leader. This did not prove to be the best choice as Ronald Reagan beat Mondale in a landslide.
George W. Bush vs. John Kerry, 2004: Looking more like a movie poster, this campaign poster attempts to simplify the candidate. George Walker Bush became “Dubya.” This was an effort to make his opponent, John Kerry look elitist. The strategy may have worked because George W Bush went on to beat John Kerry by 35 electoral votes.
Barack Obama vs. John McCain, 2008: No list of Presidential campaign posters would be complete without the “Hope” poster by Graffiti artist Shepard Fairey. He is quoted as saying, “there were a lot of people who were digging Obama but they didn’t have any way to symbolically show their support.” This poster became widely popular, appearing in all kinds of forms during the campaign. NPR’s Brooke Gladstone described the poster as, “uncluttered…it contains a message of the purest kind…it managed the stunning feat of portraying a black presidential candidate while visually overcoming the ‘otherness’ of being black in America.” It led to an extremely successful campaign where Barack Obama beat John McCain by 192 electoral votes.
As we wrap up this post, we here at artMEAT hope everyone has either already voted, is voting today, or will be voting in the future. We can express ourselves through art, but we can also have our voices heard at the polling place. Make sure yours is counted.
Until next time!