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Remembering the “Great War”

World War I posters on display in new show at MFA

I Want You for the US Army poster by James Montgomery Flagg, Over There: Posters from World War I, Boston Museum of Fine Arts

An original print of James Montgomery Flagg’s iconic I Want You for U.S. Army, recently acquired by the MFA, is included in the exhibit, Over There! Posters from World War I.

A stirring new exhibit timed to coincide with the centennial of the start of World War I has just opened at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA). Over There: Posters from World War I includes 50 patriotic posters, many on public view for the first time since 1938—gathered from Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States. Many of the posters on display were designed as recruitment tools for the US Army, Marines, Navy, and Air Service (the precursor to the United States Air Force). Others sought to keep up morale on the home front and urged citizens to conserve food, purchase war bonds, and support relief agencies.

The standout in the show is James Montgomery Flagg’s iconic I Want You for U.S. Army (1917), a color lithograph, which the MFA recently acquired. It features an imposing Uncle Sam, his piercing gaze staring out from the poster, his finger pointed directly at the viewer. It proved to be one of the most successful recruitment posters of the war. (An estimated 4,355,000 Americans enlisted in the war, and more than 116,000 were killed). Flagg modeled the image of Uncle Sam on his own features.

For those wishing to find learn more about the exhibit, Patrick Murphy, the museum’s Lia and William Poorvu Curatorial Research Fellow, will conduct an hour-long tour of the exhibit on Sunday, August 10, at 2 p.m. The event is free with the cost of admission. It’s a perfect opportunity to engage more deeply with the art on view.

Over There! Posters from World War I will be on display through June 14, 2015, at the Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston. The MFA is open Mondays and Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 9:45 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.

Admission is free for museum members and students whose schools are enrolled in the University Membership Program, which includes BU. Tickets are $25 for adults, $23 for seniors (65 and over), $23 for students (18 and over) who are not part of the University Membership Program, free for youths aged 7 to 17 on weekdays after 3 p.m. and on weekends (otherwise $10), and free for children (6 and under). The museum is free to the public on Wednesday evenings. To reach the museum by public transportation, take an MBTA Green Line E trolley or the number 39 bus to the Museum of Fine Arts stop or the Orange Line train or bus routes 8, 47, or C2 to the Ruggles stop.

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