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Belligerents and Participants
In 1909 Filippo Tommaso Marinetti published his Futurist Manifesto in which he denounced artistic and political traditions of the past. Youth, speed and technology were to be idealized, “however daring, however violent.” His ideas attracted a number of painters and composers until they grew in numbers to form a movement. As divisive and nationalistic trends were promoted in Italy, it gave rise to more radical voices such as those of the Futurists who began to turn more of their attention to politics. These elitists who disdained the masses became extreme nationalists that not only called for war, but saw in it the seeds of a revolution that would purify Italy of its morbidity. This was not a new idea, but one that rose from a very fundamental concept of war where its tragic aspects are just one half of the wheel of the universe. Such extremism was able to find fertile ground because it seemed like nothing less could cure the stagnation that gripped the nation.
Futurists incorporated many military themes into their modernist style during the Great War. A number of them gave up painting to enlist in the Italian army where they died in battle. Rather than be discouraged by the harsh realities in front of them, some projected their artistic ideas of theater onto the conflict. There artistic style however was too radical for the general public, and their work did not find its way onto postcards until after the War. There are however a number of cards from the war years that show some Futuristic influence, either stylistically of through their attitude. The card above depicts an action packed but anonymous battle scene rendered in a traditional academic style. The only allusion to its content however is the poetic caption that describes the carnage as creating a sublime sunrise in the night. This is more than a romantic vision of war, it is the ultimate high.
By 1910 the painter Umberto Boccioni had begun to embrace Futurism, and his work would come to represent the movement. When war broke out he spent more time agitating for Italy’s entry than painting, but he managed to represent scenes of combat in France. He enlisted when war came but died while serving in the field artillery in 1916.
The Milan printer, Alfieri & Lacroix produced a wide variety of printed material including postcards. During the Great War they published numerous artist signed military related cards dealing with propaganda to the life of the ordinary soldier.
Livio Apolloni was only in his young teens when the Great War broke out, but after becoming a painter and illustrator in the post war years he produced a number of drawings for the Committee to Support War Orphans of Physicians in Anzio. These finely printed lithographic cards harken back to World War One and emphasize the bravery of doctors who served in the field. They have a more modernist look than most other cards because of their later printing date.
Since 1899 the Italian weekly newspaper, Domenica del Corriere came out on Sunday with very popular cover illustrations. During World War One they ran the outstanding military pictures provided by the artist A. Beltrame, which were some of the most dramatic produced during the conflict. These images were then published as monochrome postcards by the photographer Fernando Pasta in Milan.
Alberto Bianchi is best known as a painter and illustrator of posters and fashion and glamour postcards. He produced a number of political cartoons on postcards during the Great War, and around 1915 he worked on a postcard set depicting soldiers in the Italian army.
Although Remo Branca studied law, he was inspired to teach himself the art of wood engraving during World War One. His illustrations were first used in 1918 in newspapers and magazines. He produced many fine illustrations that capture the Great War Some of these were published by the postcard pioneer, Danesi of Rome in postwar years for the Royal Institute of Regimental History.
Brunner & Cie of Como was an important publisher of view-cards depicting scenes of Italy; many of which were printed using a variety of techniques. They had an office in Zurich, Switzerland where most of their cards were printed. They issued a number of patriotic cards during World War One, some in large sets.
Alcide Davide Campestrini was an Italian born in Trentino who fled to Milan in 1881 to avoid service in the Austrian army. There he studied art and found work as a portrait painter. After the turn of the 20th century he began concentrating on military themes. Many of these images were placed on postcards during World War One.
Roberto Conti was a fine lithographic printer from Turin. The firm produced a large set of artist drawn military cards during World War One. While a number of these images were reproduced by other publishers, Conti printed them in photo-chromolithography (Fotocromia), which was rare for the war years.
Genaro d’Amato was a painter and illustrator that primarily dealt with the landscape. During World War One he illustrated a number of military themed postcards for advertisers such as Lievito.
The Genovese publisher T. Dell’Avo was typical of small firms that normally produced postcards of local views. During World War one they expanded their production to include propaganda cards. Propaganda was often a preferable subject to military cards because there was no need to use hard to obtain photographs nor did artists have to worry about the accurate portrayal of events.
Doyen in Torini was a printer of fine lithographic products including posters and maps. They were sill using chromolithography during World War One to produce fine military themed and regimental postcards.
Although Luigi Gioli studied to be a lawyer, he turned to art under the influence of his brother Francesco, a noted painter. While his early work captured rural scenes in a fairly academic style, the influence of impressionism is apparent by the time he began depicting military narratives during World War one. His interest in military subjects seems to predate the War years.
Giorgio Kienerk was a noted painter and sculpture. While most of his landscape work is in a post-impressionist style, His graphic work for posters and postcards shows much stronger Art Nouveau and Symbolist Influence. This was also true of the propaganda cards he illustrated during the Great War.
Alberto Giacomo Spiridione Martini created illustrations for magazines as well as classical literature. Although some of this was produced in Art Nouveau, he is better known for his symbolist style that borrowed heavily from the mannerists and even older medieval traditions of the grotesque and macabre. Martini would put this to good use during World War One in designing Danza Macabra Europea, 84 powerful propaganda postcards issued in 7 sets. While they attacked both Austria-Hungry and Germany, they weren’t anti-Central Powers per se as much as antiwar. The first set of these hand colored cards were reprinted in a solid flat blue by Mort Solomon in the late 1980’s.
A very interesting set of fieldpost cards was drawn by L. Mazzone for Italian soldiers. His nervous scratchy line work creates a strong sense of agitation and expressiveness. They are very unusual because of their strong propaganda content. While on the surface they seem anti German and Austro-Hungarian, they speak more to the horrors of war.
Although Mario Mossa de Murtas initially studied law, he developed an early interest in capturing his Sardinian heritage through art. By 1914 he was exhibiting his work, and contributing his drawings to newspapers and satyrical magazines. During the First World War a number of his anti-German cartoons were placed on postcards.
The Italian artist Domenico Mastroianni was well known for his unique high relief narrative sculptures. Most of his pieces are fanciful or of a religious nature but he also produced many with military themes from the Great War. These pieces were molded in clay, photographed, and then destroyed so the clay could be reused for the next piece. The publisher A. Noyer of Paris reproduced many of these photographs on postcard early in the War, but they were later published by Alberto Traldi of Milan and A. Marzi of Rome who termed those sculptures that were hand painted Cromoglipticas.
The firm G. Ricordi & Co. of Milan was originally founded in 1808 by Giovanni Ricordi to publish classical music. After they became the largest music publisher of the Mediterranean region they expanded their business to print and published books, calendars, and travel brochures. They began producing finely printed posters and artist signed cards by well known illustrators as early as the 1890’s. This continued into the years of the Great War, only now many of their artists also produced propaganda cards.
Although Luciano Mauzan was born in France, he moved to Italy in 1905 after studying painting at the Lyon Academy. There he began a career as an illustrator, and four years later he was designing posters for the film industry in Turin. G. Ricordi & Co. picked him up in 1912 where he designed many of their posters and cards. While Mauzan is best known for his glamour images, he produced a number of military cards during World War One that concentrated on themes of unity and of peace. He did however design some rousing patriotic posters that were also turned into postcards.
Leopoldo Metlokovitz was a Serbian from Trieste who began his career as an apprentice in a lithography shop. In 1892 he joined the Ricordi art publishing house in Milan, and after a few years he became technical director and was designing posters and postcards for them. While his work displayed an Art Nouveau influence it was subordinate to his strong personal sense of dynamic composition. During the Great War he turned his attention toward propaganda, which was widely distributed through postcards.
Although Mario Micheletti painted naturalistic figures and landscapes, these simple works were sometimes composed for symbolic content. This tendency can be found on postcards that carry his military themed illustrations. Micheletti might have served as a war artist during World War One.
The Naples Military Academy (Nunziatella) is the oldest military school in continuous oppression. It was founded in 1787 to train an elite officer corps that would enable the Kingdom of Naples to free other parts of Italy from foreign domination. Many of its graduates fought in Italy’s colonial wars as well as World War One. They published a number of patriotic cards that were probably for the use of their students.
Carlo Nicco was a painter and illustrator who worked in a variety of styles. During the Great War he provided generic images of the conflict for charity cards.
Plinio Nomellini was primarily a landscape painter who became involved in progressive politics in the 1890’s. After creating paintings in support of striking workers in 1894 he was arrested as an anarchist. It was only through the great efforts made by his friends that he was released from prison. Since the turn of the 20th century he had increasingly came under the influence of the Symbolists, a style which he infused into his own expressiveness. This is most evident in the patriotic paintings he made during the First World War, many of which were published as postcards.
The Milanese artist, Lodovico Pogliaghi had already made a name for himself in the late 19th century as a religious painter and illustrator of historical subjects. He was a strong proponent of reviving the classical aspects of Renaissance art, which he applied to his growing interest in sculptural design. Pogliaghi would use his fine drafting skills to illustrate military cards during the First World War. Although some of these images are straight forward depictions of events, others contain highly symbolic content; but both types tend to be highly dramatic.
The Italian Red Cross was very active in producing military postcards as a fund raising activity. The vast majority of these seem to reproduce the paintings of T. Cascella who served on the Albanian front after being conscripted in 1915. They tend to represent quieter moments or troops on the march than actual battles. Not all these scenes are on the battlefront as they also capture troops on maneuver in various parts of Italy. Some of these were published before Italy’s entry into the War.
Virgilio Retrosi was a well known poster artist that illustrated a large amount of propaganda postcards with his satirical and political cartoons. These were often presented in different formats ant style, but all with a cutting edge. Paolo Bernardini of Rome was one of the publishers of his cards.
As a child, Leonardo Roda’s family took many trips to the mountains surrounding the Aosta Vally in western Italy, which left a lifelong impression on him. They became his primary subject during his long career as a landscape painter. During the Great War, he produced a number of generic paintings in the same brushy style depicting Italian troops. A number of these were reproduced on postcards.
Enrico Sacchetti left his home in Rome to study art in Florence, but he is largely considered self-taught. He spent most of his carreer working as a commercial artist, providing illustrations and cartoons for magazines and periodicals in Milan and Buenos Aires. He moved to Paris in 1911 to work as a fashion designer, but he also illustrated some fashion postcards as well. He returned to Italy during World War One to work for the newspaper, La Tradotta. A number of his propaganda images were placed on postcards by F. Polenghi & Co. in Turin.
The artist R. Salvadori painted numerous scenes of combat and life in the trenches for the Milanese postcard publisher Cappelo. His subdued palette created an expressiveness that helped capture the bleakness of the fighting high altitude mountainous terrain.
When Italy entered the Great War in 1915 the artist Giulio Sartorio volunteered for service, and was later wounded and taken prisoner. After the war he painted a large series of landscapes based on his own military experiences as a soldier. These would be placed onto postcards by the fine art publisher Bestetti & Tumminellie in Milan. While his earlier work was heavily symbolic, the War seems to have focused him ever more on the real. Though many of his paintings are of battle scenes, they are lacking in the drama usually found in military art. They tend to first appear as landscapes to which the military narrative must be drawn out. This tends to give them a journalistic aura of realism, which his growing use of photography might have influenced. Unfortunately these cards are usually printed in rather muddy colors that are far duller than the original palette.
Marfori Savini was a painter who contributed images for propaganda postcards during the Great War. In 1916 he founded the International Academy of Painting and Graving in Florence.
Filiberto Scarpelli worked as a journalist and illustrator. He produced many cartoons for magazines and he was one of the founders of the satirical newspaper Il Travaso delle Idee. Although his bold postcard designs published by Gustavo Modiano & Co. in Milan show a strong modernist influence, they are tame when compared with other works by the Futurists he identified with. While he dealt with military subjects his work is not militaristic. His older brother Tancredi Scarpelli was a historical painter.
Attilo Scrocchi of Milan was a major publisher of souvenir booklets, local guidebooks, view-cards of Italy and Libya, plus many artist signed postcards of women and views. He produced cards in a variety of printing techniques as well as real photo postcards. He produced military cards covering the Italo-Turkish War of 1912 and his production of military cards continued through the Great War when he began to make propaganda cards.
Alberto Traldi was a publisher from Milan that produced a variety of postcard types. Though he concentrated on view-cards he also produced artist signed cards and reproduced the wild relief sculpture of D. Mastroianni. During the Great War his cards covered military themes.
Adelina Zandrino worked as a painter and illustrator who is best known for the posters and glamour postcards she designed in the 1920’s. During the First World War she produced some highly charged propaganda work vilifying Austrians that wound up on charity cards.
Zanetti & Poppelman were publishers in Milan who produced many artist drawn propaganda cards in monotone during the Great War. These cards did not depict battles but emphasized highly patriotic and anti Austro-Hungarian themes.