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Jean Carlu (1900–1997)
Division of Information, Office for Emergency Management (Washington, D.C.)
America's Answer! Production, 1942
offset lithograph
76.2 x 101.6 cm (30 x 40 in.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, gift of Barry and Melissa Vilkin

Early posters produced by United States businesses, government, and other organizations during World War II promoted efforts to increase industrial production for military support. During this period, the country was still recovering from a nationwide economic depression.


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Biography of Jean Carlu

Born in Bonnières, France, Jean Carlu came from a family of architects and studied to enter that profession. After an accident at the age of eighteen in which he lost his right arm, Carlu turned to graphic design. His early work reveals a fascination with the angular forms and spatial nuances of Cubism.

As Carlu's work evolved over the next two decades, it continued to show a concern with the geometric shapes of Cubism, but this was manifested in very different ways. Carlu sought to create a symbolic language in which color, line, and content would represent emotional values. His work thus achieved a distinctive, streamlined economy of form, rarely incorporating narrative or illustrative elements.

Carlu spent the years of World War II in the United States, where he executed a number of important poster designs for the government's war effort. Characterized by the same scientific precision of form as his other work, these designs were well suited to the promotion of industrial efficiency. Both American and international design traditions continue to reflect his influence.

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