At least two thousand different WPA posters are known to have been created during the late 1930s and early 40s, of which thankfully hundreds have survived to this day. Their subject matter was diverse, ranging from social causes to WW2 patriotism slogans to travel advertisements. WPA posters were generally colourful and redolent of the art deco style of illustration. Many of these wonderfully designed pworks are today housed in the Library of Congress, which has a collection of over 900 of them.
Below is a selection of ten WPA posters which I’m particularly fond of. Their striking art is an instant reminder of a period of history that was full of uncertainty and serious questions about the future (the US was struggling through the Great Depression, watching the world go to war and eventually entering WW2), where money was often tight and community spirit and national pride were highly encouraged.
The world was both a very different and very similar place to the one we inhabit today when these posters hung on walls around America, but just because a few decades have passed since their creation, it doesn’t mean that you can’t surround yourself with their distinctive blend of art and social conscious today. A terrific online shop by the name of the Retrovert sells posters, greeting cards, mugs, and shirts sporting artwork found on various WPA posters.
While some of the subject matter of the WPA designs may seem outdated, propaganda-like, or a tad wonky by today’s standards, others carry messages which still ring as true now (perhaps even more so as we suffer through the current economic recession) as the day they were produced - and without a doubt each of these historically important posters is a unique and creative work of art.