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What's Going on in Chelsea

Posted on 24th September 2019

A few minutes walk away from Chelsea Old Town Hall, the National Army Museum on Royal Hospital Road is well worth a visit.

'The art of persuasion: Wartime posters by Abram Games presents over 100 posters Games created during his employment as a poster artist for the Public Relations Department at the War Office from 1941 until 1945 and explores how his Jewish refugee heritage, experiences as a soldier and the turbulent politics of wartime Britain shaped the career of a man who continues to influence design industry professionals today.

At a time of immense social unrest, after the 'war to end all wars' had left hundreds of thousands of veterans and civilians on the poverty line, the country was to embark on a second world war with National Service an unthinkable necessity. Games, a staunch socialist who had himself joined the Army in 1940, saw an opportunity to communicate ideas which might help win the war, as well as bring about social change in Britain. He did this by creating posters that recruited, educated, informed and influenced soldiers and civilians alike.

The exhibition at the National Army Museum explores his masterful use of the airbrush, a limited colour palette, bold hand-rendered typography and often stark imagery, in covering difficult subjects like saving lives and censorship. It also examines the impact Games has had on graphic design in the modern world through his innate understanding of the human ability to consume essential information. Leading with a mantra of 'maximum meaning, minimum means', Games was the master of reductive design.

Always direct and occasionally courting controversy, his wartime posters marked an important progression in British graphic design. At the exhibition you can see posters from the Museum's collection alongside loans from the Estate of Abram Games. His painting smock and palette, airbrush and school report are displayed alongside the sealed pattern of his cap badge design for the Royal Armoured Corps and his iconic posters: Join the ATS ('the blonde bombshell'), Your talk may kill your comrades, and Your Britain fight for it now, among others.

As you wander round this year’s Chelsea Book Fair you’ll experience Games’ legacy, seeing works for sale featuring his illustrations, and Giles Bird from Bas Books will include Games’ iconic dustjacket designs as part of his ‘Icing on the Cake Tour’.

‘The art of persuasion: Wartime posters by Abram Games’ runs until 24 November at the National Army Museum, Chelsea.