Peter Kennard Target London poster 4 'This Sceptred Isle'
- Kennard, Peter
'This Sceptred Isle' landscape poster using photomontage and text. From a set of 18 colour A3 posters by Peter Kennard produced by the Greater London Council (GLC) in 1985. A white background with black text, the title in large at top left, with smaller text below and bottom right. Large central photomontage image of an oblique black map of the UK covered with a US aircraft carrier with flags, missiles, and communications dishes. A red target circle over London.
One of a set of 18 posters commissioned from Peter Kennard by the Greater London Council in 1985, to explain to Londoners the impossibility of London surviving a nuclear attack. Produced using photomontage and text taken from official and academic sources, the photolithograph posters use hard-hitting imagery and descriptions to make clear the devastating impact of a nuclear attack on the capital.
The posters address recommendations made in a government pamphlet ‘Protect and Survive’ prepared in 1980 alongside ‘Operation Square Leg’, an exercise to evaluate the effects of a nuclear attack on Britain. Using carefully cited text from this advice alongside academic and official documents – from scientists, doctors, nurses and the government – the posters make clear the horrific impacts such an attack would have, dealing with injury, death, destruction of property and infrastructure. They simultaneously therefore strongly promote the GLC’s policy to make London a Nuclear Free Zone, with the fifteenth poster perhaps the most vocal ‘You are now entering a nuclear free zone. All cruise missiles must wear a muzzle and be sent back to their owner.’ The final poster ‘Your Voice?’ starkly describes what would be the usual experience of anyone surviving an attack, and visually asks viewers whether this is what they voted for.
Kennard is one of the UK’s most important political artists and a leading practitioner of photomontage with a 50-year career raising questions about war, technology and climate impacts. He is best known for transposing cruise missiles into John Constable’s painting The Haywain – an image used in poster 5 of this series – and for Photo Op, an iconic image produced in collaboration with Cat Phillipps in 2003, picturing Tony Blair taking a selfie in front of burning oil wells, in criticism of the Iraq War.
These posters vividly demonstrate the power of imagery to communicate difficult, complex and unpopular messages. As described by legendary historian EP Thompson on the posters’ box, ‘The truth is not only about that terrible possible future, it is also about the hypocrisy and the evasion in the discourse of our own times … It is only when a gifted artist such as Peter Kennard exposes this to full view that we are able to imagine what we know.’