The Sword is Drawn!

Kenyon Cox (1856-1919), “The Sword is Drawn, the Navy Upholds It!”, published by the H.C. Miner Lithograph Company, New York, 1917. Graphic Arts division GC156 World War Posters Collection.

In 1914, when war broke out in Europe, the American painter Kenyon Cox joined the American Artists’ Committee of One Hundred, founded to help French artists and their families. Three years later, when the United States entered the war, Cox assisted President Wilson in the design of propaganda to help unify the country.

His most important work was a recruiting poster for the U.S. Navy, seen above. The finished painting was reproduced in an enormous lithograph, 42 x 26 inches. When a copy of the finished poster was sent to him by the Navy Publicity Bureau, he wrote, “It’s very well reproduced, on the whole, by lithography. They’ve weakened and prettified the head a little, but it was either that or caricaturing it into a plug-ugly, and perhaps it’s best as it is.”