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Belligerents and Participants
Besides his work for many magazines, Alfred Pearse also had a long career as a wood engraver and book illustrator. Many of these were action packed scenes related to military history. He was also an ardent supporter of woman’s suffrage producing cartoons, posters, and in 1909 co-founding the magazine Suffrage Atelier, which earned him the nickname, A. Patriot. During World War One he supplied military illustrations for postcards published by Raphael Tuck, but his work was rejected by the British War Museum because they were not first hand accounts of events. He eventually enlisted to become an official war artist, and was transferred to work with New Zealand troops in France in September 1918. Though his commission was for six moths, he returned to London in October to turn his sketches into paintings.
The Photochrom Company got its start printing Christmas cards, but after 1903 they had become a major producer of printed matter oriented toward tourists. This included postcards that were printed in a variety of manner including the Swiss photochrom (Aac) process. During the Great War they published tinted halftone cards that dealt with a variety of military subjects. One of their notable sets entitled Britain Prepared, chronicles the activities of the Royal Navy.
Another well known set by the Photochrom Co. was the Authentic Series that documented the downing of Zeppelins over England. While they are similar to other photo-based cards in their documentary approach to listing time and place, these cards are artist drawn with a more pleasing palette.
Punch Magazine was providing the public with anti-establishment satire sine 1842. While it contained many short articles, they became widely known for their biting political cartoons and wordplay, which helped to spread the art form. Despite this attitude the publication had become rather conservative and aimed at the upper classes by the time the Great War broke out. Its view of the Empire was very sentimental and idealized. Only one antiwar piece was published before its editor, Owen Seaman, made an all out commitment to support the War. Its cartoons remained highly patriotic and anti-German, often promoting unsubstantiated propaganda as it had no reporters in the field. As the public’s early enthusiasm for the war waned, the satire in Punch began to reflect this and its content became uneven. While it was still required to tow the official line, it seems some cartoons send mixed messages. While Punch did not publish postcards, the hundreds of cartoons it ran during the War were often reproduced on cards by other publishers both in Britain and abroad. A notable sixty card set was published by Jarrold & Sons.
Rotary Photographic Co. of London produced a wide variety of greetings and postcards in the real photos format. These cards were manufactured in Great Britain and issued under many trade names such as Biogravure, Bromiris, Linette, Moisette, Opalette, Rajah Bromide, Rotokon, Rotoscope, Rotox, Rotriton, and Silvo. They also made real photo postcards for other publishers. While they largely reproduced portraits of actresses, by World War One generals and war heroes reached the same celebrity status and were pictured on their cards.
William Rothenstein was the son of Jewish emigrants form Germany. He already had a long and successful career as a painter and printmaker when World War One opened, which allowed him to become a war artist for the British and Canadian Armies in 1917 despite his German background. His two brothers changed their names to Rutherson as a patriotic gesture, but also to possibly avoid harassment. While Rothenstein had become famous as a portrait painter, it is his depictions of the Western Front gained him much acclaim. While he painted a variety of subjects that were reproduced on postcards, most images seem to be scenes of devastation. He would also work as a war artist during World War Two.
The firm J. Salmon was an old publisher from Seven Oaks who produced a wide range of artist signed postcards. During the Great War they expanded their many series to include military subjects illustrated by artists such as C.T. Howard.
E.W. Savoy was a printer and fine art publisher that eventually took up the production of artist signed postcards. They produced a variety of subjects that included reproductions of battlefield paintings from World War One.
W.N. Sharpe Ltd. of Bradford was an early producer of greeting, novelty and comic cards. During World War One they issued a number of military cards in sets with titles such as The Flags of the Allies, Our Friends, and German Kultur.
The Sphere was an illustrated weekly newspaper published in London that covered international news stories since its founding in 1900. Though they reproduced photographs, they were renowned for their fine and realistic illustrations by artists such as Fortunino Matania, Christopher Clark, Philip Dadd, Donald MacPherson, and Paul Thiriat. A number of these images would be reproduced on postcards.
Tit-Bits was a weekly tabloid first published in Manchester by George Newnes. It was well established in London by World War One, but its tradition of condensing material from outside sources into more dramatic short stories for the general public remained the same. It was a popular formula that produced many readers. They had a long history of using stunts to promote the periodical, and they ran a song writing contest during the War to produce a tune that soldiers could sing. The winer was Ivor Novello for Keep the Home Fires Burning. They also produced postcards in series, Tit-Bits War Pictures, based on the work of official French war photographers. Postcards with the same behind the frontline images and style were issued by Newspaper Illustrations Ltd, which may have acted as a photo supply house for numerous publications.
Raphael Tuck & Sons was Britain’s largest producer of postcards, and they published many military sets during the Great War. Most of these cards were in their Oilette format that reproduced commissioned artwork. A number of well known artists worked for them producing sets such as Our Territorials and Our Fighting Regiments. They even issued sets depicting troops of other Allies such as Le Armes Francaises, which was printed in Paris. While many of these cards depict intense fighting, they were often generic as to place.
While Harry Payne worked as a portrait painter, he became better known for his contemporary and historical military depictions often made in collaboration with his brother Arthur. They began turning out chromolithographic military prints during the 1880’s, and about the same time Harry found work designing Christmas cards for Raphael Tuck. He would go on to illustrate postcards for them between 1900 and 1921. These cards often depict specific British units on and off the battlefields of the Great War.
Another notable set by Raphael Tuck was In The Air illustrated by G.T. Clarkson. The military planes in this series do not engage in combat nor do their narratives make reference to the War, which might indicate prewar publication. Many of these cards however are postmarked in the years of the Great War.
Before the Great War, not only did Raphael Tuck’s print most of their cards in Germany, they had also established a Berlin office that oversaw the production of cards in German. The popular Maritime artist Hans Bohrdt illustrated German language Oilettes in series such as Kreigsschiffe. Even though Tuck would close its Berlin office, the cards they produced remained popular and they continued to be used in Germany during the war years.
Bernard F. Gribble was already a famous marine artist before the war having both King George V and the Kaiser as admirers. During the war he was the official painter for the shipwright’s Company. He produced many scenes of confrontations between the British and German vessels, a theme he continued working on after the War. Many of these appear on Tuck’s History in the Making series.
Raphael Tuck’s office in Paris remained open during the War years where they began producing military themed postcards that were captioned in French for a French audience. Although all these cards depict french troops in scenes of rest and action, the enemy is never in sight. These cards were produced either early in the War or perhaps in the prewar years.
Though best known for their color Oilettes, Raphael Tuck also published many monotone cards of military scenes in photogravure; many taken from illustrations first printed in the Illustrated London News. One of these is a series entitled In the Firing Line, illustrated by R. Caton Woodville.
Valentine’s Co. (Valentine & Sons) was a major lithographic printing firm from Dundee, Scotland. Founded in 1825 by John Valentine, his son James became an early pioneer of photography and by the 1860’s his work was being reproduced by the Valentine Company as prints and stereo-views. In 1880 Valentine began producing Christmas cards and by 1896 they began printing postcards. While they primarily became known for their view-cards that depicted scenes from around the world, they also produced cards on other subjects that included military themes and propaganda during World War One.
Herbert Ward led an adventurous early life serving as an officer in one of Henry Morten Stanley’s expeditions to the Congo Free State. His interest in art increased after his return to England, and he moved to Paris in 1910 to further them. When the Great War broke out he found work with the British Ambulance Committee. He made many sketches of soldiers while stationed in the Vosges that were placed on postcards by the art publisher C.W. Falkner. He died in the summer of 1919 from wounds he earlier received in battle.
Louis Whirter was a well exhibited Scott painter and etcher before the Great War. After serving in the British army on the Western Front, he translated his experience in combat into a number of vivid paintings. He seems to have proposed a number of pieces to the British War Memorials Committee, but they were never created due to disagreements over payment. Postcards of his work are only to be found in postwar years, mostly on modern continental sized cards.
William Barnes Wollen was producing historical paintings by the 1880’s, which brought him much acclaim. He later found work with the weekly illustrated newspaper The Sphere for whom he covered the Boar War. He produced a number of paintings depicting battles from World War One that were finished during and after the conflict. A number of these pieces have since been placed on postcards as art reproductions.
Lawson Wood was a well known illustrator of magazines and books. He began creating propaganda postcards for Dobson, Molle & Co. at the outbreak of World War One. The Inter-Art Company began placing his work on their comic cards the following year. He would later join the Royal Flying Corps and serve as a balloon observer for which he was decorated.
Richard Caton Woodville, Jr., was a military artist that had a long career providing hundreds of illustrations for the Illustrated London News since the Russo-Turkish War of 1875. His highly refined academic style infused with drama appealed to Victorian tastes and his paintings became highly sought. By the time of the Great War, his reputation had grown substantially and his work was placed on many postcards. While his depictions of the War were created in his studio rather than sketched at the front, his use of time tested clichés ensured that it would be well received by the public. Although his battle scenes were reproduced by Raphael Tuck and on French cards by Noyer, his most notable cards were a charitable set produced for the National Institute for the Blind. They are highly emotional even for their time, and represent a particular morbidity often present in traditional English romanticism.
The Woolstone Brothers of London were a major publisher of postcards. While their output was largely of greetings and photographic views, they dealt with all sorts of subjects and even produced novelties and bookmarks. At the beginning of World War One they issued a series of military themed cards, all with the same decorative border for the protectionist Union Jack Industries League. Postcards that were of All British manufacture received a boost during the War out of patriotic zeal. All of Woolstone’s cards were published under the Milton Post Card or Milton Series names, which is derived from their original location on London’s Milton Street.
While George Wright painted many landscapes, he was already well known for his paintings of horses in sporting scenes when the Great War began. He carried this skill into new paintings of the War that predominantly featured horses in artillery and cavalry units. These pieces varied in temperament from quiet to action packed. Wright’s work had been used for calendar illustration before the War, and now his military portrayals were placed on postcards. Illustrations picturing the cavalry were particularly sought out by British publishers because they met the demands of military and equestrian collectors.
While censorship and government sponsored propaganda programs ensured the public would only see images that carried the official line supporting the War, it doesn't mean that more truthful or expressive works of art were not created. Many of these began to come to light towards the WarÕs end and would find their way onto postcards in the years that followed. In March 1917 a committee was established by the British Ministry of Information under Lord Beaverbrook to collect art that illustrated all parts of the Empire’s war effort for a National War Museum. An emphasis was put on the types of expressive pieces that usually failed to find their way onto postcards. They wanted works no matter how obscure that reflect personal experience of the War over work that promoted propaganda. Their commitment to promoting a record of toil and sacrifice over a monument of military glory caused much debate. After opening in June 1920, the Imperial War Museum began publishing postcard art reproductions. The earliest military cards are in black & white, but they continue in the tradition producing color Continentals of art not found on cards printed during the Great War due to public taste and censorship.