Can propaganda be considered great art, or is it by its very nature inferior? Nazi Germany did a lot to promote the idea that it is inferior. "As minister of propaganda in Adolf Hitler’s government," notes Alastair Sooke writing for BBC Culture, "Goebbels did more than most to make that aftertaste as bitter as arsenic."
Sooke thinks propaganda may be getting a bad rap. He notes that much of the ancient art around today is a form of propaganda. He cites several examples including Trajan's column, the Parthenon Marbles, and the solid-gold mask of Tutankhamun.
How different are these examples of propaganda from the modern art commissioned by the US government during the Cold War? The State Department bought paintings from artists like Ben Shahn and Georgia O’Keeffe. "Art is rarely the unadulterated expression of an individual genius such as Picasso: usually it is ensnared within the agendas and demands of others, such as patrons who are also political rulers. In my heart I know that good art is a vehicle for self-expression. But my head tells me that art and propaganda do not have to make uneasy bedfellows."
You can see a great slide-show of propaganda like the example above and a link to the British Library’s exhibition "Propaganda: Power and Persuasion." And here is an excellent teacher site (Bill Chapman) on propaganda with great links. Thanks to F.C. Tymrak for tweeting the link.