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Eating for Health in Wartime and Postwar Britain: A Visual Arts Exhibition

This exhibition will take place at UHCW, Walsgrave, Coventry from April to September 2014.

The Centre for the History of Medicine and University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire Healing Arts Programme present a visual arts exhibition of posters relating to food and health in Britain from c.1940-1980. Co-ordinated by Jane Hand of the CHM with the help and support of Emma Linnane, Healing Arts Coordinator at UHCW, this visual arts exhibition of posters is themed around food and health from c.1940-1980.

Since the Second World War, images have occupied an important position within national health education campaigns. Food was visually advertised as a new type of health-promoting medicine. The wartime reliance on food propaganda encouraged citizens to ‘Dig for Victory’ and ‘Eat Greens’. This established an important precedence for considering diet and nutrition in visual ways.

National food and health campaigns continued after the War but now adapted to the changing diets of the population as a variety of international foods, ready-meals and low-fat foods became popular. Increasingly, such campaigns attempted to tackle heart disease and obesity by highlighting the importance of healthy foods and exercise.

Health posters were a key way through which the state conveyed this information about food and diet to the public. Themes such as infant welfare and gender were repeatedly used as visual components of such campaigns. The selection of posters displayed in this exhibition reflects this thematic approach.

This exhibition therefore explores the important position of visual images within national health campaigns since the Second World War. It deals with themes such as infant welfare and gender, which were repeatedly used as visual components of such campaigns. Collectively these posters adhere to a particular design aesthetic, where British graphic art and modernist adoptions of colour are supported by limited text. Clear colour combinations complete this visual look.

If you would like to contribute your memories of food and health propoganda during this period please fill out our questionnaire.

LAY poster 1975 Grow Your Own Food and stock your cookhouse Mother - Don

From left to right: Is your body coming between you and the opposite sex? Look After Yourself Campaign, 1975 © Health Education Authority/Science &Society Picture Library; Grow Your Own Food: supply your own cookhouse, Ministry of Food, c. 1943, Imperial War Museum Art. IWM PST 2893; Mother: don't forget baby's cod liver oil and orange juice, Ministry of Food, c. 1942-1952, Imperial War Museum, Art. IWM PST 0710.