In 1917 the Creditanstalt, the largest bank of the Danube monarchy and founded by the Austrian branch of the Rothschild family, commissioned the renowned artist Alfred Roller to design the seventh war bond, or loan. Roller painted a stunningly realistic picture of modern trench warfare. The poster suggests grief and despair. The soldier turns to the viewer with a questioning look, ‘And you?’, generating feelings of guilt. Despite this, there was less enthusiasm for the war in 1917 compared with previous years.
Almost all belligerent states sold war bonds to finance the conflict. What distinguished the Austrian war bond posters from other graphic media were two things. Firstly, these posters were not commissioned by government agencies, but usually by the various banks that sold these securities. Secondly, only the best local poster artists were hired. The money invested by patriotic subscribers was irretrievably lost after the defeat.
Who created this poster?
Alfred Roller created the design, an Austrian stage designer, painter and graphic artist. As co-founder and temporary president of the Vienna Secession, also known as the Union of Austrian Artists, he was a central figure in Vienna around 1900. Through the composer and conductor Gustav Mahler, Roller was engaged as a stage artist at the Vienna Court Opera. He created the stage design for Richard Strauss’ premieres and taught as a professor at the Vienna School of Applied Arts. In 1920, Roller founded the Salzburg Festival with Richard Strauss and Max Reinhardt.