World War I in cartoons (Mr. Bryant)

World War I in cartoons (Mr. Bryant)

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While there are many works based on iconography to recount periods such as the Middle Ages or the Renaissance, this is less the case for the First World War, with the exception of archival photos. This is the main strength of Mark Bryant’s book, but even more so because he has chosen to focus on caricatures, an original, surprising but often relevant vision of events, which is also approached from a multitude of points of view.

A Golden Age of Caricature?

In his introduction, Mark Bryant recalls the importance of caricature at a time when obviously the Internet and television did not exist, and when radio was just in its infancy (the first broadcasts only date from the 1920s). While satirical drawing has been around for a long time, it mainly developed in the 18th century, and even more so in the 19th century in booming newspapers and magazines.

The beginning of the 20th century can therefore easily be considered as a Golden Age for caricature, and the First World War as the "ideal" theater to address all aspects, satirical and propagandist.

A full and varied work

One of the strengths of World War I in cartoons is the great diversity of the origins of the cartoons presented. Mark Bryant thus used nearly 500 drawings (color or black and white) from designers from both camps, French and German, but also British or Russian, or even Polish, American and even Australian (the cover of the book) and Argentinian!

These drawings are taken from the main trade magazines of the time, but also from newspapers, books and posters. Many are "forgotten" that can even be described as unheard of.

Timeline and context

The author / compiler makes the logical choice of the chronological presentation (despite some not very damaging "gaps"), with the good idea to start before the war (going back even to after 1870) and to finish a little after.

However, one of the best ideas is not to just present the cartoons and their authors (when possible), but to put them in context. Mark Bryant does this first with a commendable front page for each year (or pre-war), where he describes the strict context of the war, then classifying the drawings by theme, and presenting each in the framework of these themes. The cartoons are no longer just images to look at but a real way to tell the story of the war, and many of its different aspects, and thus follow the evolution of mentalities and views of the conflict by contemporaries.

A good idea

Mark Bryant's book is therefore a good idea, in the mixture of an original and pleasant form (the large format obviously pays homage to the drawings for the most part well reproduced), and a well thought out background which contextualizes very clear and useful way the works presented. The latter are for many of good quality, often funny and sharp, surprising, and for some even "prophetic".

The First World War in cartoons is therefore advisable both for lovers of caricatures (and their history) and for those of this conflict, who would like to approach it from a resolutely original angle. We must even insist on its price (25 euros), rare enough in this kind of work to be noticed ...

About the author: Mark Bryant, Fellow of History, is an English academic who specializes in caricature. He was a member of the jury for the Angoulême festival. He is also an author, in the same collection of Napoleon in caricatures and World War II in caricatures.

- Mr. Bryant, World War I in cartoons, Hugo & Cie, 2010, 160 p.

Video: What Caused the First World War? (May 2022).