Friday, 4 October 2019

The Art of Persuasion: Wartime Posters By Abram Games

Abram Games - ATS, 1939-46

'I am not an artist, I am a graphic thinker.'  - Abram Games 

I venture to the National Army Museum very rarely. The last two occasions were, if memory serves me right, for exhibitions on Action Man, and the illustrations for children's comics devoted to a war such as Battle, Victor and Warlord. I was drawn there this time for a retrospective exhibition of one of Britain's best ever poster designers - Abram Games. The powerful graphic, design statements in Abram Games'  poster work was a formative influence on the work of my early career, and visiting this exhibition served as an exercise both in nostalgia as a fledgling illustrator, and a reminder of just how powerful his work still is in the history of the field of graphic communication.

This exhibition gets very personal, and charts Abram Games's life (1914-1996) from his birth in the East End of London on the eve of the First World War in 1914 as the son of Jewish refugees, to his rise to prominence, and legacy as one of the most influential poster designers today. Games as a designer was largely self-taught, and was influenced early on by his father, Joseph who was a photographer who taught his son various techniques such as airbrushing, to retouch his photographs. His father changed the family surname from Gamse to Games. Abraham also changed his first name to Abram, joking that he is dropping the 'ham' because it is not kosher! By the 1940s Abram had established himself as a bona-fide graphic designer, garnering clients as diverse as London Transport, Shell, and the General Post Office. A designer with a deep sense of justice and social conscience, Games became a committed Socialist and manifested his beliefs in the work and causes he took on. Games was conscripted into the army and in 1941 transferred to the War Office Public Relations Directorate where as an official poster artist he was able to create over 100 poster design for the Army. Themes instructed both the military and civilians on how to buy war bonds, maintain health and fitness, grow vegetables, and be wary of idle gossip. It is fascinating to see the original sketches as ideas developed and the final artwork before the addition of type and the finished posters. The exhibition is well curated, and has been beautifully designed and put together with a section of Games's quotes on design, and a section designed to look like his studio featuring his original equipment and painting overalls. 

Abram Games - ATS, 1942

Abram Games - Join the ATS, 1941

Abram Games - DP - 200,000 Displaced Jews Look To You, 1946

Abram Games - Please Knit Now, 1945

Abram Games - Night and Day Brush the Cobwebs Away, 1945

Abram Games - RAMC Parachute Units, 1944

Abram Games - Your Talk May Kill Your Comrades, 1942

Abram Games - Grow Your Own Food, 1942

Abram Games - Help The R.A.F Join the WAAF, 1940

Abram Games - Army The Worthwhile Job, 1946

Installation View

Installation View

Abram Games - Salute The Soldier, 1944

Abram Games - ATS, 1942
Abram Games - Army Cadet Force, 1944

Abram Games - Exposition Des Armess Britanniques, 1945

Abram Games - Join The Royal Armoured Corps, 1941

Abram Games - Talk In Here Kills Out There, 1944

Abram Games - When You Go Out, Don't Crow About The Things You Know About, 1944

Installation View

Abram Games - Grow Your Own Food, 1942

Abram Games - Commando Medical Service, 1945

Abram Games - Keep A Guard On What You Say, 1941

Installation View

Installation View

The exhibition ends with a look at some work from Games' post-war career, where he worked as a freelance designer creating work for clients as diverse as London Transport, British European Airways, The Post Office and the original painting of the iconic emblem for the Festival of Britain.

Abram Games - Festival of Britain Poster, 1951

Abram Games - Festival of Britain Poster, 1951

The Art of Persuasion: Wartime Posters by Abram Games
until 24th November
National Army Museum
Royal Hospital Road