Artist Unknown: Halt! Who Goes There? If You Are a Friend Join the British Ranks 1915.


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Artist Unknown: Halt! Who Goes There? If You Are a Friend Join the British Ranks 1915. Artist depicts a sentry standing tall and alone against a vast horizon. The design an interesting amalgam of the realistic silhouette of the sentry and the abstracted shafts of wheat in bold colors. Fine image, beautiful details evoke the desolation of the front. Hard to find. 39×24 near mint, conservation backed.


Bibliography: John R Johnson’s magisterial forthcoming book Your King and Country Need You writes as follows:

Yet another silhouette of a man serving at the front is the featured image of Halt!  In this example, the soldier is alone and appears more defensive than offensive.  A single sentry in vivid purple and dramatic silhouette stands firmly in position on a desolate hillside of wind-blown scrub.  He holds his rifle with attached bayonet at the ready.  Behind him is a sweeping sky of gray with golden clouds.  He challenges the viewer as he would anyone who approaches his post.  Set against a bold purple background, his supposed words are printed in white block capitals and italics script to suggest that the figure portrayed is speaking.  The curator M. D. O’Neill draws attention to “the ominous grey and yellow clouds” that, to her “with hindsight,” “anticipated the first use of chlorine gas on 22 April 1915 and would have increased the effectiveness of the poster after that date.”[1]  First issued in February, the poster was reprinted in April and later.  Whether the authorities or viewers read into it the presence of “chlorine gas” is impossible to confirm, but the design was sufficiently arresting to have a wide distribution.

The scene effectively evokes an individual soldier’s dedication to duty at the front, where others are expected to join him if they are truly friends and allies.  By implication those who fail to do so, are not friends of the “brave lads” who are serving at the front.  Emphasis on the word “are” in the phrase “if you are a friend” implies that many might claim to be supportive, but only the act of enlistment proves that support.  The distinction between those who are only standing and staring and those who are bravely participating is made often in the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee series.

[1] O’Neill, Collective Remembrance, 12.