Visions of Victory: Picturing the Spanish-American War
On February 15, 1898, the battleship USS Maine, dispatched to secure American economic interests in Cuba, mysteriously exploded and sank in Havana Harbor. This event triggered the Spanish-American War, a series of clashes between the United States and Spain over control of Spanish colonies in the Caribbean (Cuba and Puerto Rico) and the Pacific (the Philippines and Guam). Visions of Victory displays periodical illustrations, books, and other items, primarily from the Caribbean phase of the conflict, to explore how the American and British publics formed a visual impression of the war. In an era before widespread photojournalism, it was up to artists and printers to create the images that complemented written accounts of battle. Whether these images appeared in the form of newspaper illustrations, broadsides, or frameable works of art, they were circulated within the commercial marketplace rather than by state propaganda agencies. Two factors were particularly important in shaping the production and distribution of images of the Spanish-American War. One was competition among mass circulation newspapers, which battled for readers by hiring talented artists to create illustrations that complemented the often sensationalized reporting about the war. The other was the development of chromolithography, which democratized the acquisition of artwork by enabling printers to publish large runs of inexpensive colorful pictures. Visions of Victory: Picturing the Spanish-American War is organized by The Wolfsonian-FIU from the gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf.
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