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20th Century American Art

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Poster: Wake Up, America! Civilization Calls Every Man, Woman and Child!

1917
42 x 28 1/8 in. (106.7 x 71.4 cm)

James Montgomery Flagg
American (Pelham Manor, NY, 1877 - 1960, New York, NY)

Object Type: Print
Medium and Support: Color lithograph
Credit Line: Gift of Dr. and Mrs. E. Henry Keutmann
Accession Number: 1973.169
Link to this object
Location: Not currently on view

A personification is an artistic representation of an abstract quality or idea as a person. Traditional personifications of the United States, like Uncle Sam and Columbia/America, were common in war propaganda. Columbia is a conflicting presence in American World War I posters; sometimes she is pliant and beckoning, other times solid and fearsome. The preponderance of idealized females in WWI posters, in comparison to the few representations of "real" women, contradicted the reality of American women's growing participation in factories, farms, and hospitals.

In Wake Up, America!, America dozes while the fires of war rage in the distance. Her feminine, passive characteristics-soft arms, limp hand, and white, exposed neck-are an indictment in this poster. The artist, James Montgomery Flagg, admonishes Americans to wake up and prepare for war.

[Gallery label text, 2006]

Bibliography
For general references, see "War Poster Collections: Strong, Garrett, Taber, Fisk, Wright, Turnbull, McClenahan [and] Miscellaneous Collections," Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Library, 1919, cat. no. Taber BFA1224, p. 14; Maurice Rickards, “Posters of the First World War,” New York: Walker and Company, 1968, p. 22; George Theofiles, "American Posters of World War I," New York: Dafran House Publishers, Inc., 1973, fig. 7, p. 20; Walton Rawls, “Wake up, America!: World War I and the American poster," New York : Abbeville Press, 1988, repr. on frontispiece.

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World War I Posters Lesson Plan Lesson plan around MAG's collection of World War I posters


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