October 28, 2017
Douglas Volk (1856-1935), They Shall Not Perish, 1918, poster, 37 3/16 x 24 7/8 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of Phillip M. Flammer.
On Oct. 28, 1886, The Statue of Liberty, a gift of the French people to the United States, was dedicated in the New York Harbor by U.S. President Glover Cleveland. Since that time, the image of the statue and various versions of Lady Liberty have been used to symbolize America. For example, Artist Douglas Volk evoked Lady Liberty in a poster created in 1918 and commissioned by the American Committee for Relief in the Near East.
With its nationalistic theme, this poster can be read as a statement of America’s role as protector of the oppressed peoples of the world. Here, America is embodied by a woman in imitation Greek dress, who is wielding a sword in emulation of Athena, the goddess of war and wisdom. A young frightened girl, representing refugees and displaced peoples of Armenia, Greece, Syria and Persia, clings to Lady Liberty for protection and is wrapped in an American flag. Mandated by President Woodrow Wilson and legislated by Congress, the United States rescued and provided assistance to thousands of men, women and children and established refugee centers, clinics, hospitals, and schools for the survivors.