More Propaganda and Visual Rhetoric

While reading the chapter on visual rhetoric and how certain artists/creators can do things specifically to gain attention or a response, I was brought back to themes that have been discussed in both my art history and my literature course this fall.   One thing that has really stuck with me is the idea that nothing in art is ever an accident; the artist has always planned every aspect of his or her work out exactly.

One of the pieces for which this was true for me was a World War II propaganda piece which depicts Adolf Hitler as a knight in shining armor.

With this image, so many things are going on, just as were discussed in “Compose, Design, Advocate.”  First of all, the image draws off of common knowledge of the audience.  The Nazi flag in the background quickly establishes the audience itself, as the German people, and gives the knight an evident source of loyalty.  This also establishes the ethos of the artist himself, as the person clearly supports Hitler and the Nazi regime.  In addition, the flag is very bright and contrasts greatly with the mostly neutral colors of the rest of the image.  This is most likely done to draw the viewers’ eye immediately to the flag itself and to quickly establish the position of the artist.

Furthermore, the Arthurian knight-in-shining-armour image was a well known image in Europe as the legends surrounding King Arthur spread from Britain across the European continent even in the 14th century.  In this way, the creator of this piece is drawing a specific parallel between Hitler and King Arthur, two men who came into power in the hopes of changing power structures and society itself.  This connection will immediately create a logical response within the audience who has most likely grown up with some knowledge of the Arthurian legend (even I read about King Arthur in my ninth grade English class).  Even if the King Arthur comparison is not immediately evident, the image of a knight marching to battle will not only inspire the viewers of this image, but will also give them a sense of purpose and increases the intensity and necessity of the changes in the era.  In this sense, the artist is effectively using an understandable image to create a logical purpose and story for this image.

Though I have been looking at many different pieces of art in my art history class, this one stood out to me when it was shown in my literature class (about the Arthurian legend, in case you couldn’t tell,) the other day because this really is a piece of visual rhetoric.  Propaganda is used by countries and regimes all the time in order to encourage people to buy into a school of thought and support the ideas they are espousing.  This piece does that in carefully calculated connections and color choices.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to More Propaganda and Visual Rhetoric

  1. William Vaeth says:

    I’ve always been amazed with how much meaning an artist can bury in his or her work, and you did a great analysis for this piece. Not only was it obvious how much you know about the picture and its composition, but you also presented that knowledge in a graspable way and reminded me to look twice, or even more times, and try to dig out a deeper meaning to a piece of visual art.

  2. Jule Walsh says:

    The first thing I thought when I saw this image was “hey, I know that image,” and then got really excited because, well, history excites me (which is really sad). This was a really in-depth analysis, and pointed out things I didn’t even notice. Good job!

  3. Anisha Tyagi says:

    I really love the fact that you said “nothing in art is ever and accident”. I completely agree with that and this image, as you already know, is filled with symbolism. The artist almost depicts Hitler in a positive connotation. I really like this post!

  4. Robin Kramer says:

    Emily, this is an excellent piece to scrutinize. (When you pause and fully absorb this image, it stops you in your tracks.) Nice job sifting through the text and analyzing its visual choices!

Leave a Reply