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Belligerents and Participants
While various French companies bought up quantities of existing postcards to print advertisements for products on their backs, some firms published military postcards on their own. One of these was Dubonnet, known for their apéritifs, who had cards printed by Leopold Verger & Co. in Paris. These cards reproduce typical artist drawn scenes of action, but they find creative ways of subtly inserting the company name into the compositions.
In 1914 André Dupuis was working in Paris for the Colonial Office. His previous work as an illustrator in Nancy had brought him some notice, and he was made an official artist. Sent back to defend Nancy early in the Great War as part of the 52nd Territorial home guards, he would eventually be stationed on the Vosges front. His black & white sketches of ruins were turned into a set of fieldpost cards in 1915. Afterwards he was appointed head of a topography section and sent to Champagne where he produced over 8,000 sketches and watercolors before the War was over. During this time he also illustrated a set of twenty lithographic postcards in patriotic colors for the firm Phototypie Baudiniere of Paris. Entitled Life at the Front, they capture non-combat scenes that would be familiar to every ordinary soldier. all his official work was produced under the pseudonym Jean Kerhor.
Emile Dupuis primarily worked as an illustrator and is best known for his poster designs. During the First World War he produced images for postcards that were issued in five series of 12 cards each: Nos Poilus depicting French soldiers at the front, Nos Allies of the French allies, Leurs Caboches depicting the enemy soldiers of France, Les Neutres consisting of several satirical cards mocking the stance of the neutral countries, and Les Femmes Heroiques depicting women of the allied countries. Dupuis was murdered by the Germans during World War Two while helping the wounded in the liberation of Paris.
The School of Fine Arts in Paris (Ecole des Beaux-Arts) issued a very interesting series of cards that were hand printed by its American students during the Great War. They depict various types of soldiers, and each card is individually numbered.
Fabien Fabiano worked as a painter, illustrator, and designer. He is best known for his portraits of politicians and movie stars, but many of his pastels and watercolors were also used for advertising, postcards, and magazine covers for publications such as Life and Le Vie Parisienne. While the figures on his glamour postcards were traditionally modeled, he also produced risqué cards in a more graphic style. Hw would apply this style to propaganda postcards he designed for I. Lapina during World War One.
Although Jules Abel Faivre had a long career as a painter and illustrator who provided cartoons to a number of magazines, he became best known for the propaganda posters and postcards he designed during World War One. His earliest wartime work was privately commissioned by The Friends of the Artists when official attempts failed to produce adequate results. His propaganda work was used on postcards from a number of Allied nations.
Ferdinand Fargeot was a painter of simple landscapes and gatherings of people. His interest in multi-figure compositions carried over into the illustrations he made to illustrate charity cards during World War One.
Dominique Charles Fouqueray had been an official artist for the French Navy (Peintre de la Marine) since 1808. Though a marine painter, he was more interested in capturing sailors than ships or the sea. He had the ability to capture a moment whether it be still or filled with dramatic action. During the First World War he created watercolors in an academic but loose style depicting romanticized views of French sailors and various regiments. These were placed on postcards in sets by Devambez and I. Lapina, which can be found in color and black & white. He also illustrated a number of non-naval war related posters.
P.J. Gallais & Co. from Paris was a publisher and printer of artist signed cards often dealing with political satire and risqué subjects. They were an endless source of anti-German propaganda, especially when it came to promoting the return of Alsace to France.
Though Jean-Louis Forain created impressionist paintings, he is best known for his biting caricatures that were heavily influenced by the work of Daumier. Although he was 62 years old in 1915 he enlisted in the French army’s Camouflage Section. He also found time to continue working in lithography and etching to create powerful propaganda illustrations. Many of these pieces were placed on postcards by P.J. Gallais with captions added for greater effect.
André Hellé not only worked as a decorator, cutout toy and fabric designer, and illustrator of posters and books, he illustrated a number of propaganda cards for P.J. Gallais during World War One. They were all hand colored and are characterized by their flatness and bold outlines.
One of Gallais’ most popular artists was Jean Jacques Waltz, better known as Hansi. Bitter over the German control of the province Alsace, seized during the Franco-Prussian War, Hansi did much to popularize French nationalism while constantly criticizing the Germans who he saw as occupiers. After satirizing the German police in 1914 he was sentenced to prison. This set off a wave of protests and the police in turn provided him with an easy escape just before the outbreak of war to end the controversy. Though he served as a translator in the French Army during World War One, he continued to draw anti-German propaganda for postcards. The German Gestapo caught up with him during World War Two and nearly beat him to death.
Robert Mahias worked as a painter, illustrator and mosaicist. During World War One he illustrated a number of postcards for P.J. Gallais & Co. that captured flirtatious moments between soldiers and nurses. While some of these are color lithographs, others were made in a highly graphic style is similar to the Art Deco fashion cards popular in France during the 1920’s.
The Alsacian artist Henri Zislin also produced work for P.J. Gallais. His biting satirical set depicting both military and political figures of Germany, l’Armeéllemande, was published in 1915.
Ernest Gabard, who served as a Sargent in the French army, illustrated a 42 card set in lithography. These cards depicting the life of the Poilu were very popular, which is most likely due to his exceptional ability to capture the true spirit of the every day as well as the anxiety of combat.
For an artist that was largely self taught, Albert Guillaume worked in a rather academic style, though his graphic work was much more stylized. He drew satirical cartoons for magazines, worked as a book illustrator, and designed much chromolithographic work such as posters and portfolios of prints. By the 1890’s be was already designing postcards reproducing images of the same glamorous Parisian life that he captured in his paintings. Although he designed a great many cards depicting the French army before World War One, the cards produced during the War revolve around the home front, often with romantic overtones. These poorly printed black & white cards do not do his work justice.
Cheri Herouard began his career by providing illustrations for magazines in 1902. Within five years he joined the weekly satirical magazine, La Vie Parisienne from where his fantasy and risqué drawings became well known. He continued to produce work in this same manner during World War One, only now he made them more topical by adding military themes. Many of his risqué illustrations featured American soldiers, which drew the personal condemnation of General Pershing who warned his soldiers not to buy the magazine. Many of these images were reproduced on postcards by I. Lapina.
Le’on Hingre primarily worked as a figurative sculpture and painter. During the First World War many of his military illustrations were used on postcards. While these primarily depicted studies of men in uniform, he also captured more dramatic battle scenes.
By 1914, Henri Gabriel Ibels was a well known illustrator, printmaker, painter and author. He had been part of the art group, Les Nabis and exhibited with the Salon des Independants in the 1890’s. He would use his bold style to capture scenes at the front lines during World War One in a series of paintings entitled Visions de Guerre. These works used to illustrate charity cards ranged from rather ordinary war scenes to the expressive showing shell shocked solders. He also produced lithographs with military themes.
Lucien Jonas was painter and illustrator of multi-figured compositions set in the outdoors. While these often consisted of rather comfortable scenes of the countryside or beaches, he became fully absorbed in capturing the Great War once mobilized in December 1914. Within a couple months he became an official war artist visiting all sectors of the French lines. He produced thousands of sketches and paintings, many of which wound up on propaganda posters and postcards. Much of his work is imbued with melancholic symbolism but they remained patriotic in tone.
The firm I. Lapina & Co. was a large Parisian publisher of books, posters, and postcards. They favored artist drawn cards and produced many depictions of French troops in battle throughout the War as well as political cartoons.
Levy Sons & Co. was a major photo house that captured a vast amount of view and types on their cards. They were already producing military cards before the war that largely depicted subjects that would catch the eye such as battery practice or Zouaves in their colorful uniforms. While they printed many cards as both tinted and black & white collotypes, color production fell off during the war years. There is some question as to where their color cards were printed. Their cards usually captured scenes behind the front lines, but sometimes they photo-collaged soldiers into empty landscapes to imitate battle scenes. This brings into question of whether they were trying to depict events that did not really happen for propaganda, or if they were only trying to make cards more appealing for sales.
There were many small businesses that published military postcards during the Great War. Some of these had already been producing cards before the War for advertising, and they continued this trend in the War years. While some of these were issued as ordinary cards with an ad on their backs, other firms produced cards specifically designed with the requisite format for soldiers mail. Whether this was done to show true support for the troops or just opportunism, it was meant to be seen as a patriotic act. Henry Mallez was one such company who promoted his business in Cambrai while reproducing war torn local scenes as he might have previously done with more ordinary views.
Minot in Paris produced a large set of charity cards drawn by the artist Gabard. Their coloration is subdued but they captured many true moments in a soldier’s life from the mundane to the highly dramatic.
The Artist Suzanne Meunier was one of the few female artists known to work with risqué themes. While she would have a long career as a pinup artist, she created simple illustrations for propaganda postcards during World War One.
The Neurdein Studio was founded in 1864 by Etienne Neurdein, son of the French photographic pioneer, Charlet. They produced large quantities of stereo-views, lantern slides and printed albums before they became major publishers of photo-based postcards. They continued this tradition of providing views throughout the Great War under the name Neurdein & Co., only now they had military themes and often depicted ruins. They closed in 1917 but would united with Levy Sons & Co. in 1920 to form Levy & Neurdein reunis.
The photographer Alfred Noyer ran a large studio in Paris and he took advantage of the popularity of postcards to expand his business. He became known for his art reproductions that were usually issued on photo paper. He carried on this tradition when replicating military paintings during the Great War. While many of his cards depict academically rendered scenes of French troops in battle, many are also allegorical or are highly loaded with propaganda. Because the source for this material often came from respected institutions such as the Salon de Paris who he worked with before the War, the quality of the images were usually higher than typical illustrative work. Noyer also published printed cards of battles and comic or political cartoons. Most of his cards are just identified with AN.
Some new publishers sprang up after the war, such as Photo Verdun to specifically cater to the war tourist. They published many photo-based cards in monotone rotogravure depicting the vast ruins surrounding the Verdun battlefield, especially of the most contested forts that constantly made the news. The War had turned this town into a mythical place, and its destruction was now a money making opportunity.
Before the Great War, Francisque Poulbot was known for his illustrations of the street urchins of the Montmartre, and he would expand this theme into the War years on posters and postcards. A large series of French cards depicts the War through the eyes of orphaned children, often maimed, roaming the countryside while fending for themselves. Though they tend to express more black humor than bitterness, they still manage to convey some of the real cruel realities of war that are too often overlooked. They never fail to be anything but patriotic.
Color lithographic postcards depicting specific acts of French exceptionalism were a popular theme during the War. The Petit Journal produced a set entitled Actes Heroiques, the publisher B. Sirven issued Faits de Guerre, and Massonie in Paris put out Episodes de la Guerre. Through the depiction of minor events the public could rally around heroes while lost battles were ignored.
While Louis Remy Sabattier began his art career collaborating on the painting of panoramas, he is best known for his many illustrations from l’Illustration magazine that first appeared in 1895. Many of these images were derived from his long trips to Russia, Abyssinia, Morocco, and China. He was still working for this Parisian periodical when the First World War broke out, and he created many military themed illustrations for them. These images were in turn reproduced on postcards by A. Noyer.
Although Xavier Sager was a native of Austria, little is known about his life before he moved to Paris at the turn of the 20th century. There he began a prolific career as a postcard illustrator, ultimately producing about 3,000 cards. Paris at this time had a reputation for its fashion and its loose morals, both of which Sager did his best to exploit. While many of his cards deal with high fashion, they were very often comically risqué to outright erotic. His manner of working changed little when he began producing large numbers of military themed cards for A. Noyer during World War One. They are very playful and lacking in political agenda.
Georges Scott was already a correspondent supplying pictures for the magazine I’Illustration during the Balkan Wars, and he continued working as a war artist until his death in World War two. During the Great War he produced a great number of images for use on postcards ranging from ordinary scenes of soldiers to outright propaganda. These cards were produced by a number of publishers including A. Noyer and Devombez who often added monochrome advertising for various products on their backs.
Charles Henry Tenre was a painter of middle class life portrayed through sentimental narratives. Although a number of his paintings were placed on postcards as art reproductions, he seems to have also made illustrations specifically for postcard use. During World War One he produced a number of military themed pieces that found their way onto postcards. Some of these images were also used on charity cards from other nations.
Henri Thiriet was a painter and illustrator best known for his poster work for bicycle manufacturers in a strong Art Nouveau style. During World War One he produced powerful drawings of French solders that were issued as a postcard set.
Louis Vallet was a painter and illustrator who provided many images for magazines, posters, and postcards. Most of his output seems to have revolved around glamour, erotic, and military themes, though his approach hinted at his interest in costume design for the theater. During World War One he produced patriotic images that included postcards depicting French heroes.
A large photo-based set of cards in monotone were printed under the title Visions of War. They tend to be exact to place and some actually capture scenes of combat though a few are suspect as they seem rather posed. The publication date is uncertain, but these may have been published after the War ended as souvenirs. There is a general problem with photo-based cards depicting scenes from the War in that some may come from postwar movie stills. The French film Verdun, visions d’Histoire, by Léon Poirier was reenacted on former battlefields near Verdun using both French and German veterans.