Printmakers not only create beautiful art, they often want to deliver a specific message, whether high-minded, humorous, or appalled. Drawn from the Chazen’s collection, The Loaded Image: Printmaking as Persuasion showcases prints from the sixteenth century to the present as an exploration of the messages and persuasive tactics of this popular art form.
Deployed by partisans on both sides of contentious issues, prints echo the times that produced them. Paul Revere’s The Bloody Massacre Perpetrated in King Street reinforced colonists’ anger at the British government three years before his famous midnight ride. During the Great Depression, prints celebrated American labor and technical accomplishments to boost morale, and also recorded the desperation and poverty that undercut narratives of progress and dominance. By the 1960s, artists sought to communicate the threat of nuclear war, the danger of withdrawal, and the national conscience during the cold war and the Vietnam War. Using prints to express opinions about war is a widespread practice by generations of artists around the world. Goya’s series depicting the horrors of war, and Callot’s earlier series on the same topic, are reprised again after the first and second world wars. The Loaded Image: Printmaking as Persuasion explores how prints—because they are both visually powerful and produced in quantity—can effectively reach and sway an audience.
Above: Anton Refregier (American, b. Russia, 1905–1979), San Francisco ’34 Waterfront Strike, 1949, color screen print, 11 1/4 x 22 3/8 in. Gift of the Louis and Annette Kaufman Trust, 2005.59.44