Posters, newspapers and magazines were the most important medium of ideological dissemination during the Spanish Civil War. Serving a vast collective undertaking — defending the idea of a country — they were also objects of experimentation in the field of propaganda, where numerous visual artists, photographers, writers and designers engaged through their commitment to the cause.
During the years of conflict, posters took up a privileged position as a mass communication tool. “The revolutionary posters were everywhere, flaming from the walls in clean reds and blues that made the few remaining advertisements look like daubs of mud”, was how George Orwell recalled the streets of Barcelona in his novel Homage to Catalonia (1938). Their sheer number in the Republican zone, the myriad messages and publishing organisations, and their accumulation on walls, resignified urban space, turning streets and squares into a stage, a machine-speaker of unrest and propaganda in the theatre of war.
With similar tools, the great number of wartime newspapers and magazines at the time appealed to readers from newsstands, the preferred spheres to exchange ideas on the street. Through striking images, headlines that jutted out, avant-garde designs or mere serial accumulation, printed propaganda was pivotal to the “war of ideas”. Combined with posters, the city shouted from the walls and newsstands, warning, alerting, recalling and amplifying its message far and wide.
As a replica of events happening on the streets, Guernica (1937) worked, from the Spanish Pavilion at the International Exposition of Paris in 1937, as a colossal political poster, a mural scream that, in this instance, called into question international onlookers.