My first assignment for Impact: to drag myself out of bed on a Sunday and take a short walk across campus to review the new exhibition at the Weston Gallery, ‘Windows on War: Soviet Posters 1943-1945’. I was optimistic despite a relapse of ‘Freshers Flu’: A-level history had prepared me for some satirical masterpieces.

On entering the exhibition I was immediately struck by the unprecedented breadth of styles presented by the posters: acerbic cartoons, heightened realism, stylised rural scenes – you name it. The posters were used to help the war effort and produced by a variety of artists. Anti-Hitler posters dominated, but these were executed with exceptional draughtsmanship. Most striking were those drawn by an artist named Deni. His energised and demonic depictions of the dictator captured the intensity of the threat posed by Hitler.

There was just one British poster, it proclaimed “Russia’s fight is ours” and was a compilation of four Soviet posters with translations. The force and brutality of these images must have had a huge effect on conservative 1940s Britain.

Especially remarkable was that all the posters on display came from the University’s collection of 129 original posters called ‘Windows,’ and 37 printed posters. The ‘Windows’ were painted and reproduced by hand in their hundreds and were displayed in shop and office windows. These posters bombarded ordinary Russians throughout the war. Walking round the exhibition gives a fascinating but, I feel, unfortunately limited insight into what the visual landscape and iconography of Russia was like during its involvement in the war.

Must-see: A poster of a Russian mother pleading for her son’s death to be avenged; a demonstration that posters can be as emotive as ‘fine’ art.

The exhibition runs until 22 March 2009.

Victoria Carter

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