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Belligerents and Participants
By 1917 the War Propaganda Bureau had grown into the Department of Information, which was nearly a ministry in itself. Journalists had little access to the front lines and images provided by the few official military photographers were very limited. Reality was not the source of the news received at the home front, the War Ministry was. Many well known writers and publishers were secretly working for the government making sure that their stories all promoted the war effort. Publishers offering opposing viewpoints were often raided by police and had their presses smashed. Most publishers self censored themselves, abandoning their duty to the public in favor of blind patriotism. A good deal of what people learned of the War was pure fabrication, and the images postcards presented were based on this propaganda. For the most part British postcards did not have to promote falsehoods simply because they presented little that could be read as fact. Soldiers and places were largely generic; basically telling the story of courage, duty, and sacrifice.
Bamforth & Co. of Holmfirth was a major producer of lantern slides that were mostly based on moral teachings. They eventually expanded into postcard production, and during the Great War they were noted for the many song sets they published that followed patriotic, sentimental, and religious themes.
John Beagles was a printer and publisher that produced real photo postcards that largely depicted movie stars and royalty, along with artist drawn comic cards. After John died in 1909 his son took over the management of the firm as J. Beagles & Son, Ltd. They went on to produce a number of comic cards with military subjects. There is a warning on their backs not to send them to soldiers at the front for they might be subject to summary treatment if taken prisoner with anti-German cards in their possession.
Though the Scott, Muirhead Bone studied both architecture and art, he largely made his career as a self-taught landscape etcher. He began working for the War Propaganda Bureau in May 1916 as a war artist and was sent to the Western Front. He first produced drawings of armaments both being manufactured and being shipped at the docks, but between August and October he captured front line scenes at the Somme. Bone returned to France again in 1917 where he concentrated on depicting ruins. In the same year his images of war were published in The Western Front by Wellington House. He also worked aboard a number of naval vessels during the war years. Toward the end of the Great War he secured a position on the British War Memorials Committee. He would return to working as a war artist during the Second World War, largely capturing naval related subjects.
Frank William Brangwyn lived his early childhood in Belgium before his family moved back to London in 1874. He received some artistic training from his father who was an aspiring architect and muralist before going to work at the workshop of William Morris in 1882. Despite his lack of formal training he became a prolific artist, who in addition to his paintings, prints, and murals designed furniture, interiors, stained glass, ceramics, and graphics. He provided illustrations for books, posters, and postcards. His first interest was in marine scenes, but after traveling around the Mediterranean while serving aboard a freighter he became very interested in Orientalism. Though not an official war artist, he produced a series of eighty powerful images for propaganda posters and charity cards during World War One. Some were so violently anti-German it was rumored that the Kaiser had personally put a bounty on his head. His work was not widely accepted as his unique self-taught style did not easily fit into current trends in England at that time.
The Bystander was an illustrated magazine that first came out at the end of 1903. Though primarily for delivering gossip, Everything About Everybody Everywhere, they were also strong on expressing political views and satire. The Bystander became popular with soldiers during the First World War due to its irreverent approach and humor, especially after publishing the military cartoons of Bruce Bairnsfather. Eventually they began including the sketches of soldiers drawn at the front. The magazines controversial edge did not fit in well with wartime constraints on speech, and its editor Vivian Carter was dismissed after crossing the line too many times.
The Scot publisher William Collins Sons & Co. was well known for their comic cards drawn by prominent illustrators. While military themed cards show up by World War One, they tend to be generic in nature, even when portraying grand events. All their cards were published under the Herriot Series label, named after their location at Herriot Hill in Glasgow.
The London Daily Mail was a tabloid that started publishing postcards of news events and comics at least as early as 1904. During the First World War they were granted the right to publish war images from the British Press Bureau though a bidding process and promises to donate half the profits to war charities. These cards were issued as Official War Pictures in 22 sets of eight cards each, all carefully approved by military censors. Many of the same images were reproduced in monochrome and in color. Millions of these cards were printed and they initially sold very well. After the Daily Mail began a campaign against Lord Kitchener, sales fell dramatically as the British public generally viewed him as a war hero.
A.M. Davis & Co. of London published the series War Bond Campaign Post Cards for the National War Savings Committee. These were rather crudely drawn but sometimes captured subjects not represented by other cards. Photographs were often supplied to them through the Department of Information.
Francis Dodd was an artist who built up a reputation as a distinguished portrait painter and printmaker. During the Great War he was recruited by the War Propaganda Bureau as an official war artist. He worked on the Western Front in 1917 and 1918 where he sketched portraits of the British commanders. Many of these portraits were reproduced on a large postcard set.
Gale & Polden of London published dramatic artist drawn scenes of combat on postcards by Stanley L. Wood. By now Wood had a long reputation as an action illustrator having depicted scenes from the American West and the Boer War.
Colin Gill joined the British Army and initially served with the Royal Garrison Artillery on the Western Front in 1915. The following year he was transferred to the Royal Engineers as a camouflage artist. In March 1918 he returned to England where he became a camouflage instructor. In May he offered his services as an official war artist but was turned down, but he was sent back to France in November 1918 do sketches for the British War Memorials Committee. These were only realized into paintings after the Armistice. Heavily influenced by modernist trends, his work was not popular enough to be placed on postcards until more recent times.
International Art Co. (Inter-Art Co.) of London published artist drawn cards depicting romantic, glamour, comic, patriotic, and other themes. They are known for their comic and propaganda cards printed during World War One such as their Ten Nine Eight series, and their very famous allegorical set of Nurse Edith Cavell’s demise at the hands of German Kulture.
Painter and Watercolorist Ronald Grey was primarily portrait and landscape artist. During the First World War he created a number of military themed paintings and drawings that particularly related to German air raids.
Siegmund Hildesheimer & Co. was an old publisher of books that began printing Christmas cards in Manchester in 1876. By 1881 they opened a shop in London and began to produce advertising cards and then postcards on a variety of subjects. Most of their cards were artist drawn views and issued in a wide variety of sets. This included patriotic and propaganda cards during World War One.
The publisher, Hodder & Stoughton had joined up with Henry Frowde by World War One. They then produced a number of light hearted patriotic postcards in series such as Dear Little Allies drawn by the same artists that provided illustrations for their children’s books.
Edgar Alfred Holloway began his career as a war artist during the Boer War. Gale & Polden published a series of postcards from this period depicting soldiers in uniform. He continued working as a war artist during World War One, when he produced many depictions of tanks in action that were placed on monochrome postcard sets by the Delta Fine Art Co.
Charles Thomas Howard was working as a postcard illustrator before the Great War. During the war years he produced a number of cards for the Salmon Brothers as well as other London publishers like E. Mack. These were simple patriotic and sentimental cards, all floating on extensive white backdrops.
Ernest Ibbetson was already well known for his military illustrations that were used in books and on postcards before the Great War. During the war years he produced recruitment posters and a series of cards for the publisher Gale & Polden that depicted British troops in generic battle scenes. While his style was a bit stiff, his compositions were action packed.
In the mid-19th century, ordinary people had little access to pictorial news, largely due to the cost of reproducing it. Herbert Ingram thought he could take advantage of this situation and began publishing the The Illustrated London News in 1842. It was met with great success, and exposed the public’s hunger for illustrations. War news was always particularly popular, and the paper was very well poised after decades of experience to cover conflict when war broke out in 1914. Their efforts to cover the War however were hampered like all publications by official censorship and denial of access to the front lines, making them reliant on artist renditions of events worked up from eyewitness accounts. They managed to present engaging work while conforming to government guidelines of self censorship. While they did not publish postcards themselves, many of their illustrations were reproduced on postcards by Raphael Tuck and A. Noyer.
In mid-August 1914, The Illustrated London News launched a spinoff weekly magazine, The Illustrated War News to specifically cover the Great War. The new publication was more pictures than news, but it shared many fine illustrators with its parent paper, which ensured its success. Publication stopped just before the War ended due to paper shortages.
Jarrold & Sons of Norwich and London had been retailers since the late 18th century and eventually became known for their department stores. They were already publishing postcard sets in the 1890’s to promote their stores, and this trend continued into the years of the Great War when they concentrated on patriotic themes. Their best known cards were made between 1914 and 1916 when they produced a sixty card series of war related cartoons that were originally published as illustrations in Punch magazine. Punch, published since 1841 was widely popular for its biting satirical style, and they had directed criticism toward Kaiser Wilhelm since 1888. Some of these early cartoons were also included in the series by Jarrold & Sons.
Eric Kennington, son of the painter Thomas Benjamin Kennington, enlisted in the 13th Kensington Battalion soon after the Great War broke out. While fighting on the Western Front he was accidentally wounded and discharged from service in June 1915. He would return to the Somme in December 1916 as a semi-official war artist, and the work he produced from this visit was so impressive that he received an official commission in May 1917. He would spend over seven months in France sketching the solders of the Third Army at Villers-Faucon before succumbing to trench fever. Even then he continued to make drawings at the medical facility he was brought to. The Ministry of Information supplied a number of these portraits for publication on YMCA postcards. While an exhibition of his work entitled The British Soldier was well received in London during the summer of 1918, Kennington was unhappy about the censorship of his paintings and resigned his commission as a war artist. He returned to France once more in November 1918, with a new commission from the Canadian army and made drawings of the occupation force. After the War a meeting with T.E. Lawrence inspired him to travel to the Middle-East, and some of the drawings he made their were used to illustrate Lawrence’s The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Kennington would work as a war artist again in 1940 for the Air Ministry.
Before the Great War, John Lavery was a well known portrait painter who largely worked within the circles of high society. His work had in a pleasant impressionistic style though it absorbed more modernist influence over the years. Since the Irish born painter kept his pro-German sympathies and anti-war views to himself, he was appointed an official war artist in 1914. A car accident prevented him from deploying overseas but he still created a number of rather bland paintings of the home front. The lack of emotion in his work made him a favorite with the Department of Information.
The book illustrator Alfred Leete designed two of Britain’s most popular recruitment posters. One featured Lord Kitchener demanding volunteers. The other produced in 1915 was Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War? It was based on a real conversation the artist overheard within his own family. Guilt, shame, and emotional blackmail were common elements of British propaganda. Women in the streets were known to hand out white feathers to men without uniforms as a symbol of their cowardice.
The watercolorist Leonard Linsdell illustrated a number of card sets for Raphael Tuck depicting romanticized and glamorous portrayals of women. He continued along these lines during World War One displaying women in their new found roles aiding the war effort.
The London View Co. was an early and popular publisher of many military cards that covered all of the Allies. Their subjects were diverse ranging from marching soldiers to fleeing refugees. While many of their cards capture quiet moments behind the front lines, others depict troops in raging battles. These cards are all titled in French and English and their three letter logo, LVC, appears within the flag of the Allied nation where the scene is depicted.
When the firm W.E. Mack was operating out of Bristol in the 1890’s, they published quotations from the Bible on cards. By 1903 they moved to Hampstead, London to take advantage of the postcard craze and began producing cut out toys and cards of all types in series. During World War One they published a number of military related artist drawn postcards.
Fortunino Matania, the son of painter Eduardo Matania, was providing news sketches for the weekly L’Illustrazione Italiana early in his career. He left Italy for Paris in 1901, but went on to London the following year to work for The Graphic and later The Sphere. He became a war artist during the Great War and provided illustrations for a number of magazines and papers such as The Illustrated London News. Many of these illustrations would be reproduced on postcards by other publishers. While he played great attention to detail, his work was often infused with sentimentality. He resumed creating military themed work during World War Two.
James McBey began his career as a banking clerk in Aberdeen, Scotland but he eventually became a self-taught etcher. While serving in the Army Printing & Stationery Service during World War One, he made sketches of the Somme front and munitions works at Harfleur. Once this work was exhibited back in London, he caught attention and he was made an official war artist. Attached to the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in 1917, he made hundreds of watercolors and paintings depicting the campaign and its leaders from the Sinai and across Palestine until they reached Damascus. Only a small amount of this work reached the public in the form of postcards.
Paul Nash, an important British modernist, had enlisted when the Great War broke out but was not sent to the Western Front until 1917. Even though the drawings he made while an official war artist in Flanders were rather unappealing to army officials, they were still exhibited back in London in May 1918. The acclaim this brought him resulted in further commissions for large paintings, which were largely finished after the War ended. Perhaps his most noted war piece among many apocalyptical landscapes is The Menin Road, depicting a bleak blasted battlefield. Like many of his contemporaries, his work eventually took on a general antiwar aura, which made it impossible to use on propaganda promoting the War effort. His work only began to be placed on postcards in postwar years as art reproductions.
John Nash was the younger brother of Paul Nash. He had basically been a landscape painter and botanical illustrator before the War, heavily influenced by Romanticism. After enlisting in 1916 he was sent to fight in Flanders the following year and his work took a decided turn. By 1918 he had become an official war artist but his work did not capture the positive spirit that most publishers wanted to place on postcards. They would only be reproduced later as art reproductions after their power as propaganda diminished.
Christopher R.W. Nevinson was the rare English landscape painter and printmaker to come under the influence of the Italian Futurist Martinetti. While his efforts to bring the movement to England largely failed, he became the leading practitioner of Futurism in Great Britain. Serious rheumatism prevented him from enlisting in World War One but he did join the Friends Ambulance Unit and served in France. By January 1915 his heath deteriorated enough for him to be sent home for good, though he was reassigned to work at a hospital administrated by the Royal Army Medical Corp. Despite his radical beliefs, he was made an official war artist in April 1917 and returned to France to sketch on the front line where he earned a reputation for being reckless. Though he worked in a Futuristic style, Nevinson held back his emotions to please his superiors and his work suffered for it. After being encouraged to be himself he took up a more naturalistic style to better express his narrative content, but it was widely criticized from all sides and some of it even censored. His volatile temperament brought him much notice but did not help his career. Although the growing pessimism found in his work put him at odds with the War Office, it was accepted by the British War Memorials Committee. Though considered an important painter of the Great War, his work is best found on postcards from the postwar years.
Newspaper Illustrations, Ltd. of London was a publisher and distributor of color and black & white military postcards based on officially sanctioned photographs supplied by the Photograph Section of the French Army. These cards mostly capture behind the front scenes at Verdun and the Somme. They were printed in England with English titles.,/font>