Hitler’s Nightmare-1939

This piece by Lester Beall was commissioned by Crowell Publishing Company to go into Collier’s magazine by 1939. During this time, America was trying to inspire their citizens into patriotism by use of propaganda posters. This poster in particular was a propaganda against Hitler and his march on the world. Here you are able to see Beall’s love for arrows and how they can convey a message. In this poster, the text (from what I can read) Beall basically explains that Hitler is a serious problem and that he is marching on the world. He then begins to use words that would inspire America to rise up and stand against the evil powers of the world. The huge red arrow points to the main images of the poster which is Hitler and his officers. He uses more arrows to cover the faces of the officers that point to the main antagonist, Hitler. This was his style of simplicity. Instead of having many faces for you to focus on, he simplifies the message so that all arrows are pointing at the “point” of the message. The use of vibrant red colors really captures the seriousness and tone of the poster. He wanted to capture the attention of the audience so they would take a second to realize this message wouldn’t be fleeting. The final piece of this poster I admire is his use of the red splotch under the feet of the images of the people. To me this signifies that everywhere Hitler walks will be accompanied by bloodshed. A powerful message in such a trying time in America’s history.

Discussion — 3 Responses

  • Jason Haskins 04/17/2019 on 3:54 PM

    Hey Jared,
    I was going through the different posts and I saw this one and the poster made me want to stick around for a bit and find out more. Interesting choice! I liked your breakdown, I just am curious about your thoughts on such a serious matter, most people believe that the entire conflict in WWII was perpetrated by Hitler as an individual, and based on this poster I would say the artist carried a very strong message along those lines, to not focus on the other perpetrators but instead on the individual at the core. I wonder though for such a strong piece if he could not have done a better job by rather blocking out the other human faces, instead replacing each face with one that resembled Hitler, to carry the message that by following a tyrant, they themselves were just as guilty and shared his likeness. Using the arrows the way Beall did, he’s blocking out the guilt of the other notorious and savage leaders to focus on only one man, in my mind it’s kind of giving them a pass.
    Here’s more of what I was thinking.


  • Abigail Feldman 04/19/2019 on 11:54 PM

    Hey Jared and Jason,

    I think this poster is highly intriguing as a political device. I could be incorrect, but based on the text of the poster, I believe it is actually pointing (ha) out the fact that there are undercover officers in Hitler’s service that are actually working for the resistance. In that case, I think it is logical to leave the faces as abstract shapes to preserve their anonyminity. I believe this abstraction also functions successfully on another level if we parse through some historical context. It is known that in his youth Hitler was rejected from art school not just once, but twice. He was told that “the realistic paintings of buildings and landscapes that he preferred had been dismissed by the art establishment in favour of abstract and modern styles.” It is safe to say he harbored a great deal of resentment over this for the rest of his life. In July 1937 he held The Degenerate Art Exhibition in which he insulted art and artists he considered to be degenerate, hanging the frames askew and utilizing graffiti to portray the works absurd. The show included abstract, expressionist, and Jewish works. Suffice to say, I think to produce anti-Hitler art and propaganda in an abstract, modernist style, would be the most powerful, because it was what irks him the most. When read in this context, the arrow faces could be seen not only as the undercover agents set out to undermine his plans for Europe, but also his emotional instability in art haunting him in an abstract form.


  • Tracy Sewell 04/23/2019 on 1:45 PM

    I like the points that you point out about this piece. Propaganda is strongly used in this piece to describe the terror that was seemingly to come through Hitler and his soldiers. The use of arrows in this piece is able to portray a simple meaning yet convey a much deeper underlying message. While the arrows are going different directions, it is determined by the position of the person to Hitler. Each arrow is pointing to Hitler as to show how the attention should be on him and the possibility this could bring if the power got out of hand. The use of red as the only color in this photo brings to light the meaning behind the color. It is known as something powerful that brings the attention to the color. The soldiers have their items in hand that look to be pitchforks that are covered in blood. This shows the terror of what was to come through the reign of Hitler.

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