Introduction

Visual Index (Entire Poster Collection)

Catalogue

Chronology of the War

Acknowledgements

Lists of References

Afterword: Herbert R. Southworth Collection


 

Tanto vale una hoz como un fusil, tanto un arado como una ametralladora. Coordinemos nuestros instrumentos de guerra y trabajo contra el enemigo común

[A sickle is as valuable as a rifle. A plough is as important as a machine-gun. Let's coordinate our tools of war and labor against the common enemy]. Signed: F. Pérez Mateo. Ministerio de Instrucción Pública. Dirección Gral. de Bellas Artes. Asociación de Obreros Litógrafos. Gráficas Reunidas, U.H.P. Madrid. Lithograph, 3 colors; 100 x 69 cm.

The need to combine military and economic efforts in order to win the war is expressed in several posters in this collection (posters 23, 24, 26). In this case, the written message is echoed by the conjoining of weapons (represented by a German-made Karabiner 98b rifle and a machine-rifle) and agricultural tools. The appearance of instruments of labor and war together may also be read as symbolic of the encroachment of the culture of war upon everyday life, as happens to a civil population living through a military confrontation for an extended period of time. A knowledge of guns and other weaponry was probably as conspicuously absent in Spain in the years before the war as it is today. This situation gradually changed as the war took over the lives of citizens. Contemporary newspapers and periodicals included abundant images of military-like uniforms and military maps, representing a facet of life which was rapidly becoming all too familiar for the readers. The appearance of guns in this and similar posters also contributed to spreading the culture of war.

This poster was issued by the Ministry of Public Instruction, probably after Jesús Hernández was appointed Minister on September 4, 1936. Since the poster was printed in Madrid (as shown by the inscription on the lower left corner of the image), it must date earlier than November 6, 1936, when the central government fled Madrid for Valencia. Also, the author, Pérez Mateo, can probably be identified as Francisco Pérez Mateo, an artist who died at the front on November 7 of that same year. Active on the Republican side during the first months of the war, Pérez Mateo was known primarily as a sculptor, a fact which makes this poster an oddity among his work. He was born in Barcelona in 1903 and moved to Madrid in 1917, where he studied at the Royal Academy of San Fernando. In 1925, Pérez Mateo traveled to Paris, and in 1928 he held his first individual exhibition and won the national prize for sculpture. Pérez Mateo belonged to some of the leading artists' associations of the time, such as the Sociedad de Artistas Ibéricos, and he was included in an exhibition by this group in Paris in 1936. In 1933 he participated in the first Exhibition of Revolutionary Art in Madrid, which also included works by other artists in this exhibition (Monleón, Renau and Rodríguez Luna). He was a member of the Communist Party of Spain (PCE), and at the outbreak of the war he enlisted in the communist Fifth Regiment, one of the most famous combat units in the Republican army. Fighting as a lieutenant with this regiment, Pérez Mateo was wounded in the defense of Madrid on November 6, 1936, and died in the trenches the next day. An exhibit in his honor was included in the Spanish Pavilion in the International Exhibition in Paris, where Picasso's Guernica was also shown. An echo of Pérez Mateo's knowledge of avant-garde art may be seen in this scene: the manner in which the composition rests at its base on a right angle is reminiscent of a compositional device used often by cubist painters.

 
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