Monday, 11 September 2017

Freedom: The Art of Political Expression

At Hull History Centre we hold many collections which document a wide range of political issues and campaigns. With City of Culture’s ‘Freedom’ themed events in full swing, we thought we would use this blog to highlight some hidden gems.

Below you will find a selection of items showing how individuals and campaign groups have used art as a means of political expression. Look out for the curve ball which hints at issues of censorship and freedom of speech.

Election poster produced by the Municipal Association Group, mid-20th cent. [U DAS/29/61]

Visual posters like this one, produced by the Municipal Association Group as part of an election campaign, can tell us lots about the issues particular local elections were contested on. Whilst election statements and party manifestos can also tell us such information, visual representations can help us understand the different ways in which messages were put across to the electorate.

Cartoon sent by Victor Weisz to Audrey Jupp-Thomas, 18 Jan 1956 [U DJT/10]

Victor Weisz, born in Berlin to Jewish parents, was a gifted caricaturist and political cartoonist. Before moving to Britain in 1935 as a result of his strongly anti-Nazi political position, his work had appeared in German newspapers. In Britain his work appeared in the News Chronicle, the Daily Mirror, Evening Standard and the New Statesman. By the 1940s he had adopted the pseudonym 'Vicky', became a British citizen in 1947, and tragically took his own life in 1966.

Poster issued by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, 1980s [U DBV/28/2]

Founded in 1898 by Miss Frances Power Cobbe, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection plays an important part in the history of the animal rights movement in Britain. For a century the BUAV has been leading campaigns against vivisection, testing of cosmetics on animals, and use of animal testing in the development of treatments intended for human use.  

Circular issued by The National Council for Civil Liberties, c.1934 [U DCL/74/4]

The censorship of visual expressions of opinions was a common feature of many political regimes during the 20th century. This fact shows that opponents of a particular position have long believed visual messages to have a strong impact on the spread of information and the persuasion of individuals.

If any of these items have piqued your interest, you can investigate further by paying us a visit and delving in to the collections.

Claire Weatherall (Assistant Archivist)

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