There’s rarely a moment when war (and violence that isn’t called war but is war by any other name) is occurring somewhere. And there’s rarely a time when artists and designers have not portrayed armed conflict in some way – either for or against. I’ve assembled some images of war and peace to show how the battlefields may change but the visual language has remained constant for longer than we care to consider.
War breeds heroes, human and otherwise. Anonymous c.1943.
Battle of Moneybags and Treasure Chests. Pieter Brueghel the Elder, 1567. A never-ending story.
From the “Disasters of War” Francisco Goya asked “What more can one do?” 1810-20.
Honoré Daumier shows that Galileo is “startled by the change in the earth’s surface.” 1867.
Anonymous street art posted after Operation Desert Storm (1990-91). The “first’ Gulf War.
The essence of conflict from “Osborn on Conflict” by Robert Osborn, 1982.
Der Krieg (WAR) by Alfred Kubin, 1918. After the devastation of the “Great War.”
Jean Veber’s “Face to Face” says more about the “Great War” than any photo. 1917.
James Montgomery Flagg, uses himself as a model for this bombastic patriotic call to arms.
After the “Great War” world peace was a dream, but hardly reality. Anonymous, c.1920.
From guns to plowshares? “War Never Again” by Heinz H. Halke, 1922.
Austin Cooper’s plea goes ignored. “The World Set Free,” 1935.
The “Great War” decimated Germany and Germans. Anonymous photograph, c. 1920s.
German artist Kathe Kollowitz’s life was dedicated to “War Never Again,” 1924.
Does Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica” commenting on the blitzkrieg of the Basque town of the same name, need explanation? 1937.
Robert Osborn’s survival manual for the postwar, atomic era. 1945.
Tomi Ungerer on American involvement in Vietnam, 1968.
Seymour Chwast coins a timeless truism in 1964.
Herblock’s Mr. Bomb from 1954 is haunting 60 years later.
This eye-opening photo helped change the minds of millions of Americans, yet it recurs and recurs. 1975.
Herb Lubalin’s words ring true, his wit hits hard. Date unknown.
“Against Death by Atom Bomb” by Paul Peter Piech, 1982.
When did “collateral damage” enter the vocabulary as a substitute for murder? Ask Sue Coe, 1991.
Additional ResourceFor even more history of design and a look at its influence on politics and culture, be sure to get Steven Heller’s Evolution of Design download.
About Steven Heller
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →