Boston's Museum of Fine Arts Hosts Exhibition Highlighting Propaganda

Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive—Promised gift of Leonard A. Lauder | Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The Art of Influence: Propaganda Postcards from the Era of World Wars runs through January 21, 2019.

Long before our current moment of “fake news” and Presidential Twitter rants, propaganda was a prominent presence in daily American life, albeit in imagistic form.

From World War I through the end of World War II, postcards—mini works of art with bold colors, stark graphics and biting slogans—were an efficient means of carrying desired political messages far and wide. Like any effective work of art, each postcard bore clear intent, whether to unite citizens, instill rage against a common enemy, or justify wars’ existence. The postcards that survived this era have a dual purpose for art historians—as telling artifacts, but also as examples of excellent design.


Leonard A. Lauder Postcard Archive—Promised gift of Leonard A. Lauder | Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Both aspects are illuminated in the 150 samples on display at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston’s comprehensive new exhibition. Drawn from Leonard A. Lauder’s postcard collection—the mega-philanthropist collected as a child in Miami Beach, accumulating roughly 100,000 cards to make for the most extensive and well-curated collection in the world—the exhibit spans countries and themes.

Cards, as well as posters, magazines and film clips, hail from the Soviet Union, Japan, Europe and the U.S., exploring ideals of leaders and heroes, villains and enemies, abstractions, and, yes, “fake news” itself—and revealing how, no matter its source, propaganda has always been deeply intertwined with politics. 465 Huntington Ave.