“City of Lights, City of Fonts” is a blog and visual diary created by ArtSlant’s Georgia Fee Artist-in-Residence, Ali Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald will explore France’s evolving visual relationship to propaganda, looking deeply at aesthetics of nationalism and politicized otherness. With sketches, writing, and graphic vignettes, she will document fonts, signage, and France's history of drawing as activism.
As I spoke about before, France was the birthplace of the lithographic poster as art form. But
the Art Nouveau poster gave way to different, more propagandistic uses in the two World Wars.
During the German occupation between 1940–1944, the city was awash in German and Vichy
propaganda posters and signs, as well as competing images from the resistance.
British historian Ian Ousby wrote of that time:
Symbols of Paris were painted over and repurposed by the invading army. The city’s famously
ornate lettering was replaced by sparser, authoritative fonts. Sometimes they were Germanic
and Gothic fonts:
At other times they used restrained and modern san-serifs:
The differences between older Parisian aesthetics and this new iconography were striking and
incongruous. Famously, the Eiffel Tower was adorned with a banner that read: “Germany
Conquers on All Fronts.”
Posters shifted alongside signage, and began to borrow heavily from Nazi imagery of farmland,
Aryan workers, nuclear families, and invading Bolsheviks.
In the image below, a woman tries to stave off a masked Russian soldier who is bringing a
bloody bouquet of death. She’s wearing a flower similar to that worn by Marianne, a nod to her
Although conditions were dire in occupied Paris, André Zucca presented a sunny, lively city in
his photographs for the German propaganda magazine Signal, photographing women in high
heels and amiable German soldiers as tourists.
Germany didn’t just take over the economy of France after the invasion, but also conquered the visuals of a country steeped in pictorial history.
Next time I’ll talk a bit about the visual output of the resistance with underground newspapers,
hidden flags, and clandestine posters. In the meantime, here is a group of resistance fighters
stealthily putting up some posters in Paris:
Tags: City of Fonts #GeorgiaFeeResidency Paris artist residency Illustration, drawing