Tuesday, November 18, 2008

World War 1 in Cartoons by cartoon historian Mark Bryant

World War I in Cartoons (UK,2006) by dr Mark Bryant:

Front cover: Kaiser WilhemII (1915)

In a previous article I wrote I found this book on a WWI book fair in Passchendaele.
This book by cartoon historian dr Mark Bryant deserves a prominent place on the bookshelf ,not only of the people interested in the Great War, but also of the cartoon collector because of its historical value and interesting point of view to approach history through the eyes of cartoonists and illustrators.
In the book are many cartoons of Bruce Bairnsfather, a cartoonist I didn't knew before (shame on me!). Visit the Bruce Bairnsfather site and you'll be convinced of his great talent.

"Well if you knows of a better 'ole, go to it!" (1915)
by Bruce Bairnsfather, one of the most famous cartoons
of the Great War

This is the book's summary I've read on the dust jacket:

In an age before TV and radio - and long before the coming of the internet and personal computers - the impact of cartoons and caricature was considerable,especially when the only sources of information and commentary were silent cinema newsreels, posters, newspapers and books - all largely black-and-white. So, not surprisingly, the Great War of 1914-1918 proved an extraordinarily fertile time for artists working in this field.To a news-hungry public, anxious about world affairs, it was the cartoon, with its immediacy and universal accessiblility -even to the barely literate- that could speak the message mere words could never convey. And in times of stress it is laughter that is often the best medicine

When Zeppelins blackened the sky,U-boats challenged the Royal Navy's supremacy at sea, and huge 'Big Bertha' guns shelled the muddy fields of Flanders, it was the antics of Captain Bruce Bairnsfather's immortal 'Old Bill' and the drawings of H.M. Bateman, Bert Thomas and others that kept up Britan's spirits and reassured the troops that all was well back home in dear old 'Blightly'. And who could take Kaiser Bill, Admiral Von Tirpitz, the Red Baron and all the mighty goose-stepping Prussians at all seriously when Allied cartoonists cocked a snook at all they held dear? The pages of Punch and its rivals in Britain, Europe, Russia, Japan and the USA made certain that, whatever was happening militarily, their reader's laughter guaranteed that is was never quiet for long on the Western Front.

The Central Powers also had a wealth of talent labouring to counteract the Allies' propaganda machine and prewar satirical journals such as Simplicissimus in Germany, ass well as others in Turkey, Bulgaria and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, rose to the challenge.
But cartoons of this, or any other period, are not necessarily lighthearted and the Great War gave rise to many vicious and hate-filled drawing on both sides - indeed the gruesome anti-German cartoons by Louis Raemaekers were even deemed powerful enough to call Holland's neutrality into question.

World War I in Cartoons is divided into chapters covering the war year-by-year, each chapter prefaced with a concise introduction thad provides a historical framework for the cartoons of that year. Altogether more than 300 drawings from both sides of the conflict, in colour and black-and-white, have been skilfully blended to produce a unique visual history of the great war.

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