Ludvik Holwein was born in the Rhine-Main region of Germany. He began his career not as a graphic designer but as an architect. In his early years, he participated in the German “Youth Style” movement and designed the cover of “Youth”, the core publication of the “Youth Style” movement. Prior to World War I, Holwein was involved in the reform of German graphic design. Holwein’s early works are clearly characteristic of the “Art Nouveau” movement, influenced by the “Plakastil” school, and began to be characterized by simple compositions and flat colors.
At the beginning of the 20th century, European poster design took on a new look in its continuous development. Around the First World War, a new graphic design movement centered on posters emerged in some European countries, which was called “the Pictorial Modernism” movement because it was centered on painting and also influenced by modernist art. Among them, the reformation in Germany was the most influential at that time, and was called the “Poster Style” movement. The German name of the “poster style” movement, “Plakastil,” is composed of the words “poster” and “style. The German name “Plakastil” is composed of the words “poster” and “style”, which shows the dominant position of the poster in this movement.
Graphic design was seen as an important tool by the increasingly rampant Nazi party in Germany after World War I, and was widely used for political propaganda and political provocation. In addition to traditional printed materials such as newspapers and posters, new forms of propaganda tools such as newsreels and radio also became propaganda weapons of the war, and together they formed a powerful array of war media. Although the choice of propaganda tools was more extensive, posters continued to dominate political propaganda, given that radio and television were both subject to varying degrees of restriction. Hitler paid special attention to the role of graphic design in political propaganda. He advocated the popularization of graphic design in order to better popularize it among the masses and achieve the purpose of political propaganda. Hitler not only used graphic design for extensive political propaganda, but also designed the Nazi propaganda image himself.
After the end of World War I, Holwein worked on designs in Munich. Munich was the cradle of the Nazi movement in Germany, and after the Nazis came to power, Holwein was soon used by the Nazi government to design political propaganda for them. In 1914, Holwein designed an advertising poster for the German Red Cross, featuring a wounded soldier with a striking red cross in the background, as an appeal to the public to support Red Cross rescue activities.
During World War II, Holwein designed a large number of propaganda posters for the Axis powers, establishing his special place in war poster design. In 1940, Holwein designed a recruitment poster for the German government, placing the head of a soldier in the center of the picture, the soldier wears a steel army helmet and has a grim expression, forming a bold cross with the red color in the background, and the title of the poster is simple and powerful: “And you? (UND DU?), the whole picture is simple but has a very strong impact.
Holwein’s designs often used national images familiar to Germans, such as flying eagles, strong German soldiers, and Romanesque decorations. He designed a series of propaganda posters for various departments of the “Third Reich”, including posters for the German national airline Lufthansa and recruitment ads. The 1936 poster for the German national airline Lufthansa, in which the figure is designed in a flying pose, is a representative of the German modernist design style.
It is worth mentioning that many of Holwein’s designs are in the ancient Roman style, for example, the poster for the Munich festival uses the head of Athena as the centerpiece, which is unique in previous German poster designs. This was inseparable from Hitler’s promotion of classicalism in design at the time. Hitler believed that the Roman Empire was the greatest empire and wanted to build a Grand Germanic Empire as powerful as it. Therefore, Hitler encouraged a revival of classicalism in design, particularly in the Roman style. Hallwein had to adopt this style in order to meet the demands of the Nazi government. His later designs were also increasingly characterized by strong militarism and anti-Semitism, becoming the most typical representative of Nazi reactionary propaganda design.