"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Friday, February 11, 2022

John J. Pershing

This c. 1917 lithographic poster of John J. Pershing hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.

John Joseph Pershing 1860-1948 

Born Laclede, Missouri 

During World War l, posters seemed to promise a fast, efficient medium for communicating with the home front, and painters, cartoonists, and illustrators volunteered their artistic talents as a patriotic gesture. California artist K. M. Bara’s "You Are Wanted by U.S. Army" recruiting poster depicts General John J. Pershing, the renowned commander of the American Expeditionary Force. Because of two famous advertising campaigns, Uncle Sam's “I Want You for the U.S. Army” and Lord Kitchener's “Your Country Needs You” in England, the pointing or outstretched hand became a frequent motif for poster propaganda during the war. In addition to that exhorting gesture, Bara used bold coloring and a lively composition of crossing diagonals with the upward-charging horse and the twisting figure. For those who missed the reference to a famous equestrian portrait, Napoleon Crossing the Alps by Jacques-Louis David, Pershing's recognizable figure was authoritative all on its own. -- NPG
K. M. Bara


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