Propaganda! The Illustrative Life of C.B. Falls

An exhibit on view through May 17, 2023 in the Schow Gallery, Sawyer Library.

Charles Buckles Falls (1874 – 1960), also known as C.B. Falls, was a prolific multimedia artist whose career spanned over sixty years. Falls illustrated children’s books, created posters and holiday cards, designed fabrics, and painted large-scale murals; he seamlessly moved between the public and private sectors, and took commissions from clients including the federal government and commercial publishing houses.

The posters, illustrations, and books in this exhibition chart almost 40 years of Falls’ career. Despite his lack of name recognition to contemporary audiences, Falls’ images appear familiar: blocky, bright propaganda posters and playful book illustrations reflect daily life. Falls’ work, while seemingly innocent and fun, represent clear endorsements of the American colonial project and the wartime industrial complex. Falls worked with highly reproducible media, like magazines, books, and posters, allowing his images to permeate mainstream American culture between 1900 and 1950. Propaganda! The Illustrative Life of C.B. Falls aims to recontextualize the artist’s popular style to demonstrate the graphic arts’ power in normalizing constructed, highly controlled narratives and harmful imagery.

Curated by Libby Kandel, MA’23.