Apr 5

Navy Poster Art

Monday, April 5, 2010 1:00 AM


The Navy Art Collection is fortunate to have a small collection of original recruiting poster artwork. Nowadays recruiting materials usually have photographic images, but in earlier eras, some well known artists did their “bit for the war effort” by creating fabulous art promoting recruiting and home front production.

Don’t Read American History, Make It!, by James Montgomery Flagg, oil on canvas,


This well-known World War I poster image is by James Montgomery Flagg, the artist of the “I Want You” army poster.

Two Naval Officers Shooting the Sun, by McClelland Barclay, oil on canvas, 1941, 48-31-D.

This World War II poster image is by McClelland Barclay. Barclay was already a famous designer when he joined the recruiting bureau. When he heard about the work being done by the Combat Artist Section, a number of the recruiting bureau artists wanted to do combat art as well, but the Section was very selective. Recruiting sent out several artists on their own initiative, including Barclay. In the Solomon Islands, the LST he was traveling on was torpedoes and Barclay was listed as missing in action. Most of the art that he created for the Navy returned to his estate and has been coming on the market gradually over the past few years. But if you surf the online auctions, you’re more likely to encounter Barclay’s name associated with jewelry as with paintings. He was a truly multi-talented designer.

Heritage, by Lou Nolan, gouache on illustration board, circa 1960, 83-76-A.

This poster image, painted in 1959 and used throughout the Vietnam era, was painted Lou Nolan on contract to the Navy recruiting office (perhaps some of my readers can help me with the correct names of the commands and bureaus of each era). It is one of the most recognized Navy images of the past 60 years and was recently incorporated into the Naval History and Heritage Command logo.