Lord Kitchener – the recruitment posters. Part 2

London Opinion cover from 5 September 1914Sunday saw the start of a string of events this week to mark the centenary of the death of Lord Kitchener, whose face has become a global icon since he was depicted on the front cover of London Opinion magazine in a famous illustration by Alfred Leete.

Kitchener Wants You, a book I have written with Martyn Thatcher, tracks Kitchener’s career and examines how he was portrayed by magazines and the press from his rise to fame in the Sudan to the present day. This week, I’ll do a post a day based on images from the book – many of which are rarely seen – and some I’ve discovered only recently.

Three images of Kitchener from 1914 and 1915

A smiling Kitchener on the cover of Home Chat in 1915

A smiling Kitchener on the cover of Home Chat in 1915

Kitchener on the cover of Illustrated War News in June 1914

Kitchener on the cover of Illustrated War News in June 1914

How the US magazine Collier's depicted Kitchener in September 1914

How the US magazine Collier’s depicted Kitchener

Alfred Leete’s painting of Kitchener

Alfred Leete drew the London Opinion magazine cover at the top of the page, which was picked up as an image and used for at least three recruitment posters. Leete was one of the leading black-and-white artists of his day, and produced covers, cartoons and illustrations for London Opinion alongside Bert Thomas (who beame famous for his ‘Arf a Mo, Kaiser’ advert for the Weekly Dispatch tobacco fund). Leete’s Kitchener artwork ended up in the Imperial War Museum and has been reproduced in many books, though usually only credited as a poster, or sometimes, mistakenly, as an advertisement. It is worth examining the artwork at the IWM, which has been digitised to its full size and can be examined in detail online.

There were many other depictions of Kitchener, as shown above, but Leete’s is the one that most people remember.

Martyn Thatcher shows how Kitchener became a poster

Martyn Thatcher explores how Kitchener became a poster

All of the artists and magazines chose to portray a younger Kitchener – he was 64 when the war broke out, but most used older photographs, in the case of Leete from one dating back 20 years to about 1895. Martyn Thatcher has explored how the mage was produced and in the process did the above design merging a photograph into Leete’s illustration. Note in particular how Leete built up the moustache and opened the eye. The collar is also simplifed so as not to detract from the face.

Part 1: Kitchener – the legend remembered

Tomorrow: the reaction to Kitchener’s death

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