Artists of the Great War

Introduction | Propaganda | War Art Scheme | The Anzac Book | Will Dyson | Dyson's Australia at war | Women artists | Broken bodies


When war broke out just 13 years after Federation, the Australian community was charged with imperial loyalty and new-found independent patriotism. Between 1914 and 1918 propaganda pictures presented two views of the overseas conflict: the heroism of individual efforts on the battlefield and the threat of violence from across the oceans. Both stories were employed to encourage enlistment. Artists of the Great War presents propaganda imagery by Will Dyson, Fred Leist, Lionel and Norman Lindsay and Harry Weston.

Following the defeat of two conscription referendums in October 1916 and December 1917, Norman Lindsay was commissioned to produce a ‘recruitment kit’. Working with the three key principles of persuasion, fear and guilt Lindsay’s poster Today the German Monster threatens the world with bloodshed, slavery and death 1917 depicts a maniacal German ogre threatening the world. The oversized figure’s menacing arms are drenched with blood. Originating in central Europe, the bloodshed spills out in all directions, smothering the globe, reaching close to Australia. Lindsay’s poster is a deliberate, powerful expression of the threat of invasion.

The collection of propaganda posters and prints in Artists of the Great War explores a range of symbols, motifs and texts that artists used to encourage enlistment. From Leist’s outback crusader to Lionel Lindsay’s emblematic crucified Belgium, these artists present Australia’s participation in the war as a moral good and a global necessity.



Norman Lindsay Today the German Monster threatens the world with bloodshed, slavery and death 1917, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
, purchased 1981 
@ H.C. & A. Glad