Photo: 1938 Spanish Civil War poster by artist Joseph Renau is titled "Victory -- Today More Than Ever." It was among war artwork designed to communicate the stakes of war to a busy, often illiterate constituency.
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SHREVEPORT, LA -- Sixty years ago, hundreds of passionate posters screamed from the walls of Spain's cities. With stark images of fists and faces with mouths crying, and guns and flags held high, these stunning images spoke of the dangers of fascist terror and the importance of public resistance.
On Jan. 19, the Shreveport Art Guild and the Meadows Museum at Centenary opened Shouts From The Wall: Posters and Photographs Brought Home from the Spanish Civil War by American Volunteers. This unique and rare collection of Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) art contains 35 posters, photographs, wartime letters, and the only wall newspaper to survive the conflict.
The exhibit, which will continue until March 8, is being presented in association with its corporate sponsor, Minden Bank and Trust, and a grant from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) was the first European battlefield of World War II. It saw the first modern use of airplanes and saturation bombing. It was the war of violence upon the innocent. Astounding images were produced among many eye witnesses -- writers such as Ernest Hemingway and Langston Hughes, and photographers such as Robert Capa.
The northern Spanish town of Guernica was used as a testing ground for saturation bombing and annihilated. This was basis for the famous painting, Guernica, by Pablo Picasso that depicts the horrors of war and makes a political statement against war and aggression. The literary and journalistic outpourings include Ernest Hemingway's For Whom The Bell Tolls.
60th Anniversary of Spanish Civil War
Shouts From The Wall commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War and honors the 2,800 American volunteers -- the Abraham Lincoln Brigade -- who risked their lives to help defend the Spanish Republic.
The posters are striking in both beauty and their message, representing early modernist styles, including Art Deco, surrealism, realism and photographic montage. But whatever the style, the messages were crystal clear, accessible to the busy, often illiterate masses who understood the stakes of the war.
The primary theme of the exhibition involves the relationship of art to modern politics and to war. A secondary theme is the role of art as a political or ideological weapon. The purpose of the posters was to strengthen civilian morale and educate the public about safety and wartime goals. Appealing to an illiterate population, the posters demonstrate the power of visual art in an age of mass communications.
The Spanish Civil War presents a historical perspective of similar issues that have also surfaced in conflicts in Northern Ireland, the former Yugoslavia, Liberia, Angola and numerous other countries.
Series of Public Programs
The Meadows Museum has scheduled a series of public programs to educate the community about the war and its historical, political, artistic, and biographical heritage, as well as America's involvement. The programs on the Centenary College campus will feature a film series, lectures, poetry readings, a play by Federico Garcia Lorca, and adult education courses, all introduced by Centenary College English Professor Jefferson Hendricks, a scholar and noted author of the Spanish Civil War. Perhaps most exciting of all, is the personal appearance of one of those American veterans and several historians and authors.
This exhibit will be fascinating not only to those interested in art, but also to those interested in 20th century history, literature, and politics. High school and middle school tours are being scheduled through the Museum office.
The curators are Peter Carroll and Cary Nelson. The exhibition is organized by the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives at Brandeis University. It is made possible by grants from The Puffin Foundation Ltd., Charles Lawrence Keith and Clara Miller Foundation, the Program for Cultural Cooperation Between Spain's Ministry of Culture and United States' Universities, the Blue Mountain Center, and the Needmor Fund. Professional services were provided by the Technical Assistance Program, a division of The American Federation of Arts.
Meadows Museum Hours are: Tuesday-Friday: Noon - 4 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday: 1 - 4 p.m. Admission is free.