Tuesday 17 March 2009

Grow Your Own Food poster, 1942

Any consideration of the countryside in the 1940s will tend to fall into two parts. On the one hand there is the War, and on the other there is what happened – in the way of a new beginning - immediately following. To represent the Second World War, we have purchased an original signed poster dating from 1942 by Abram Games (1914-1996).

Games was one of the most influential graphic designers of the twentieth century with a gallery of iconic images, including the emblem for the 1951 Festival of Britain, to his credit. He was officially appointed War Office Poster Designer and came up with 100 designs, among them a couple of Grow Your Own Food examples. Posters and slogans were a vital means of communication and encouragement at the time.

1942 was a critical year in the War for food supplies. The Battle of the Atlantic in the spring threatened to throttle imports with 275 merchant ships being lost in March alone. The national food production strategy demanded that a further 1.75 million acres of land be ploughed to help make up the shortfall whilst in the same year conscription of farm workers was lowered to the age of 18 and drained a further 100,000 men from the land. Recruitment of Land Girls was accelerated and the nation at large was enjoined to do its bit.

Games’ poster, with its bottom line of ‘supply your own cookhouse’ was directed at the military as an encouragement for service personnel to turn available parts of their bases into allotments for food production.

Eric Newton, writing about posters in the journal Art and Industry in July 1943 said: 'Suddenly with the outbreak of war, the poster trebled its importance. From being a commercial luxury it became a national necessity. Yesterday it was a frivolous temptation. Today it is a weapon to be reckoned with.'

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