Alfred Ambrose Chew Leete was a British graphic artist. Born at Thorpe Achurch, Northamptonshire, he studied at Kingsholme School, Weston-super-Mare, before moving to London in 1899 and taking a post as an artist with a printer. His career as a paid artist had begun in 1897 when the Daily Graphic accepted one of his drawings; later he contributed regularly to a number of magazines including Punch magazine, the Strand Magazine, Tatler, etc.
As a commercial artist he designed numerous posters and advertisements, especially in the 1910s and 1920s, for such brands as Rowntrees chocolates, Guinness and Bovril, and his series of advertisements for the Underground Electric Railways Company (the London Underground) were very well known; his work as a wartime propagandist includes the poster for which he is known above all, the Lord Kitchener poster design, which first appeared on the cover of the weekly magazine London Opinion on 5 September 1914. "His prolific output was characterized by its humour, keen observation of the everyday, and an eye for strong design"
A 1914 recruitment poster depicting Lord Kitchener, the British Secretary of State for War, above the words "WANTS YOU" was the most famous image used in the British Army recruitment campaign of World War I. A hugely influential image and slogan, it has inspired imitations in other countries, from the United States to the Soviet Union."
Lord Kitchener Wants You
Britain declared war on the German Empire on 4 August 1914. September saw the highest number of volunteers enlisted. The poster was designed by Alfred Leete and had first appeared as a cover illustration for the popular magazine, London Opinion, on 5 September 1914. At the time, the magazine had a circulation of 300,000. In response to requests for reproductions, the magazine offered postcard-sized copies for sale. The Parliamentary Recruiting Committee obtained permission to use the design in poster form. A similar poster used the words "YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU".
On the outbreak of the First World War, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Herbert Asquith appointed Kitchener as Secretary of State for War. Kitchener was the first member of the military to hold the post and was given the task of recruiting a large army to fight Germany.
Recruitment posters have often been seen as a driving force helping to bring millions of men into the Army. The Times recorded the scene in London on 3 January 1915; "Posters appealing to recruits are to be seen on every hoarding, in most windows, in omnibuses, tramcars and commercial vans. The great base of Nelson's Column is covered with them. Their number and variety are remarkable. Everywhere Lord Kitchener sternly points a monstrously big finger, exclaiming 'I Want You'". Although it became one of the most famous posters in history, its widespread circulation did not halt the decline in recruiting.
The placement of the Kitchener poster designed by Alfred Leete has been examined and questioned following an Imperial War Museum publication in 1997 suggesting that the the poster itself was a 'non event' and was made popular by postwar advertising by the war museum. A 2013 book researched by James Taylor counters the popular belief that the Leete design was an influential recruitment tool during the war. He claims the original artwork was acquired by the Imperial War Museum in 1917 and catalogued as a poster in error. Though the image of Kitchener (Britain's most popular soldier) inspired several other poster designs, Taylor says he can find no evidence in photographs of the time that the Leete poster was used. The most popular recruitment poster at the time featured Kitchener (without the pointing finger) and a 30-word extract from one of his speeches.