Introduction

Visual Index (Entire Poster Collection)

Catalogue

Chronology of the War

Acknowledgements

Lists of References

Afterword: Herbert R. Southworth Collection


 

Todo el país convertido en una fortaleza. Ni un palmo de terreno sin fortificar!

[All of the country converted into a fortress. Not even a piece of land without fortification]. Signed: Bardasano. Partido Comunista de España. Sociedad Gral. de publicaciones (E.C.). Lithograph, green; 100 x 70cm.

In December 1937, the Republican forces attacked the Nationalists along the latter's eastern front in an effort to seize the town of Teruel. This attack met with an immediate Nationalist counteroffensive, in which the Republican army, lacking war material and debilitated after its efforts at Teruel, was pushed back toward the Mediterranean coast. Despite the many arbitrary executions carried out by their officers, most of the Republican divisions fell into chaotic retreat. As one soldier put it: "Terror from enemy attacks from the air was greater than that imposed by the pistols of our own officers." By April 18, 1938, Franco's forces held a forty-mile band of coastline to the south of Barcelona, cutting off Catalonia from the rest of Republican Spain.

Although this poster is undated, the territory it depicts being defended indicates that it was produced during the Nationalist counteroffensive or in its immediate aftermath, in the spring or summer of 1938. In the picture, the Republican soldiers stand in readiness behind a trench, awaiting the enemy's attack. The ominous smoke in the immediate background creates the impression of imminent danger, an impression reinforced by the map emerging from the smoke, showing the Republic's retreating lines of defense. The caption is a call by the Spanish Communist Party PCE (Partido Comunista de España) for the Republican troops to dig in and prevent what was fast becoming a complete rout.

The artist, José Bardasano (1910-1979), was the child of Madrid working-class parents. A largely self-taught artist, the young Bardasano was working as an artistic director in an advertising agency when war broke out in 1936. Already a member of the communist-controlled JSU (Juventudes Socialistas Unidas), Bardasano immediately established a workshop with two colleagues and produced numerous propaganda prints and posters for the Communist Party. In 1937, Bardasano and his wife, the artist, Juana Francisca, moved to Valencia, where they continued to produce propaganda posters. At the end of the war, Bardasano and Francisca spent some time in a French concentration camp, after which they took exile in Mexico. Here Bardasano formed the Mexican Fine Arts Circle with a number of other Civil War exiles and Mexican nationals. In 1960, he returned to Madrid.

Unlike the Anarchists, whose propaganda emphasized the revolutionary aspect of their struggle, the Communists pushed only one message: victory in war, a victory that could only be achieved through subordinating idividualism to group discipline. For this reason, the soldier in the majority of communist posters is a rigid, angular figure-a sterile symbol of strength. In contrast, Bardasano's figures are often realistic and vulnerable.

 
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