In November 1936, rebel
troops began a relentless assault on Spain's capital city. The fact
that a rebel victory did not occur in Madrid when insurgent forces
first attacked the city was a major setback for Franco's coup d'état.
The failure to conquer the capital of Spain until the very last
days of the war created a significant rallying point for loyalist
forces. Images of the tragedies of Madrid's struggle were portrayed
in propaganda pamphlets and posters in an attempt to rally support
on both the national and international levels. This poster, which
was printed in Spanish, French, and English, is an example of this
desire to shape international public opinion and galvanize support.
The ominous planes and the crumbling building in the background
suggest the reality of the threat to the people of Madrid. The portrayal
of a woman and child in danger had a universal appeal that the author
of the poster hoped would affect people of all nations.
Despite the entreaty
of Loyalists for foreign aid that is reflected in this and other
similar posters, the Non-Intervention Agreement (NIA), signed by
France and England in August 1936 and quickly ratified by twenty-seven
other countries, was something of a barrier to international involvement
on the Republican side.
forces did receive aid from a number of foreign governments who
ignored the stance of the NIA nations, notably Mexico and the Soviet
Union. While the Loyalists would most certainly have been defeated
long before 1939 without the support of Stalinist Russia, the cost
of this aid was high. Besides Spanish gold reserves that were sent
as partial payment for military equipment, the drive by the Communists
to control the Republican war effort further disrupted the already
fragile unity of loyalist forces.
In addition to support
from official government sources, Loyalists also received assistance
from individual volunteers. Perhaps the most famous are the International
Brigades, organized groups of foreign volunteers who came to save
Spain from fascism. While the people most remembered for their participation
in Spain during the war are famous intellectuals, such as the French
writer André Malraux, the British journalist George Orwell,
or the Mexican painter David Alfaro Siqueiros, the majority of the
volunteers in the International Brigades were working-class men
and women. More than 35,000 people came from some fifty countries
to fight in the war. Private organizations such as the International
Commission for the Assistance of Spanish Child Refugees in Paris,
the Washington Friends of Spanish Democracy, and the British Committee
for Refugees from Spain in London were also a key source of foreign
support. For example, in Great Britain, organizations planned everything
from marches and socials to dances and street theater in order to
raise funds for the Loyalists. The famous muckracking journalist
and candidate for the 1934 California gubernatorial race, Upton
Sinclair (1878-1968), also tried to encourage people to support
the battle against Fascism in Spain. In 1936, Sinclair wrote and
published, with his own funds, a short story called "No pasarán"
about a group of American workers who traveled to Spain and arrived
just in time to fight in defense of Madrid. Sinclair composed this
work in order to induce Americans to aid Spain, either by joining
the International Brigades or by making contributions to one of
the many organizations raising funds for Spain.
While there is no indication
of the artist on this poster, some scholars attribute it to Augusto.
There is little known about this artist, who seems to have done
most of his work on posters for the Junta de Defensa de Madrid.
The poster was printed between November 4, 1936 and May 17, 1937,
the period during which the issuing entity, the Ministerio de Propaganda,
was in existence.