Title Cartoons of the Great War. World War One Album of Colorful Cartoons and Caricatures, possibly by a P.O.W.
Book Condition Very Good
Seller ID 003389
8vo. 22.5 by 18 cm. 270 pp., almost all with one or more colorfully painted cartoons and caricatures depicting the early part of World War One, beginning in 1914 and possibly all the way through 1915. The album was made with a notebook with ruled lined paper. On most pages, the lines have been covered over, and are at most barely visible. One of the specific events alluded to is the sinking of the Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy by one German submarine, an event which occurred in September, 1914. The sinking of the Lusitania and chemical warfare are alluded to well into the album, which brings the album into the middle of 1915. It is possible the album runs into 1916 but not by much. The jingoistic, and non-subtle analysis manifest in the cartoons, does not give way to a weariness, a questioning, or disillusionment which would certainly have asserted itself later on in the war. The cover has a raised title, not fully legible anymore; from what can be made out, it was probably "Cartoons of the Great War". The identity of the artist is unknown; we were told he was a P.O.W., but there is no concrete evidence corroborating this and the assertion may be unverifiable. Other than the hearsay, support for the hypothesis, for that is what it is to us, comes from the unconventional materials used to produce the album. The paints used are not what someone with such an abiding interest in artwork would have chosen if he had the freedom to do so, but in a P.O.W. camp the artist would settle for what was on hand. The media used to paint the cartoons are various, but most unusual is the heavy use of an oil paint, or a house paint, which was frequently employed as a background, probably in part to blot out evidence that the artwork was applied to a lined notepaper. If these cartoons were done in a P.O.W. camp, the artist had to have been captured at the very outset of the war.Many of the cartoons are not really tied in to day-to-day events, but rather personalize and personify the war into a few stock characters -- the Kaiser, his sidekick of a fictional youthful son named Willie (the Crown Prince was named Wilhelm, but by the time of the war he was not only in his thirties, but also quite unlike this fictional incarnation), a lion representing Britain, John Bull, Uncle Sam, etc. -- who play things out in a Manichaean burlesque. And in this framework the bad guys are repeatedly bested, humbled and humiliated in the satisfying manner of animated cartoon villains. These simplifications are to some extent the diet everyone is fed during wartime, but would it not seem especially consistent with someone who might have been fed limited, and often, misleading information, by an enemy captor, and as an exercise by the artist to bolster his own and his colleagues' spirits? Yet one can not rule out that the album was kept by a soldier in the trenches, where too, the choice of artistís tools one would expect to have been limited.Throughout the album the artist mines national stereotypes for humor, just as one would expect during wartime, and also during an era with few taboos in such patronizing merriment. Targets include Turkey, or the Ottoman Empire, and Austria-Hungary, as well as Germany. The cartoon captions can be obscure, their humor, lost on us; at times, we suspect, the captions might have come across as heavy-handed or clumsy even back when. Yet it should also be pointed out that much of the time the cartoons make their point with non-literal allegory in very clever ways. The imagery, unlike some of the text, holds up wonderfully well, and it is that we can feast on. One does not really have to know anything about the war, nor have an interest in the war, to enjoy the fancifulness and verve of the pictures. There are cartoons that refer to a channel tunnel, chemical gas warfare, Sinn Fein, Lord Kitchener, von Hindenburg, and on and on. Some of the best work is of caricatures of the leading figures in the war other than the Kaiser; or of the artistís lampoons of alleged German cartoons; or a number of funny pieces that do not have a direct connection to the war. That said, a considerable amount of the albumís impact is cumulative, and it is the totality of creative energy and vision that make this album so special.The spine is somewhat cocked. The text block juts out a quarter inch from the binding. The binding is scuffed and has moderate to heavy wear. One leaf loose. A few leaves with minor damage. Very Good. Hardcover.