LONDON – Over the past 30 years, Onslows has sold only a handful of posters from the Spanish Civil War. Examples of the posters are represented in public collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum, Imperial War Museum and in institutional collections in the United States and Spain. On Friday, Dec. 15, Onslows will offer at auction a representative group of propaganda posters from this historic conflict. Absentee and Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.
The collection originally held 12 posters, however, the family who has owned them since the conflict decided to present five examples to family members, in memory of their relative who had collected them while in Spain in the 1930s, where he was supporting the Republican cause of the Civil War.
The commitment of artists to the Republican and anti-Fascist cause made the Spanish Civil War posters vigorous. Revolutionary conditions prevailed and in Valencia, Barcelona and Madrid, printers and publishers were collectivized. Commercial and fine artists volunteered their skills for the Ministry of Propaganda for the Defense of Madrid, and the Catalan government-employed artists to design its posters. The artists were given free range to design the posters with the militias, political parties and trade unions adding their own slogans before sending them off to the printers. Designs were sometimes selected by popular vote.
The posters defined political territories within the cities and were seen pasted on to street walls and furniture, shop windows, kiosks and on trams and buses. In Homage to Catalonia, British author George Orwell’s account of the war, he comments that he saw posters everywhere, flaming from the walls in reds and blues and made other poster advertisements look like daubs of mud.
The posters Onslows is offering for sale represent well the different artistic styles, including Art Deco, caricature and avant-garde. The posters certainly became collectible and quickly after their publication members of the International Brigades acquired them to send back home, sensing they represented history in the making. They were also given to visiting dignitaries and featured in the press. Many civilians from over 50 countries volunteered for the International Brigades in support of the Republic, it had become a cause célèbre with well know figures included Ernest Hemmingway, Laurie Lee and Willy Brandt.