Twitter is a wonderful tool for connecting with people from all walks of life and in all parts of the world. Several weeks ago, I ‘followed’ Luci Gosling and when she followed back I discovered that she’s the author of Brushes & Bayonets: Cartoons, Sketches and Paintings of World War I. Since this book is no longer in print, I purchased a second hand copy and was delighted to peruse its pages as soon as the book arrived.
In the introduction, Ms. Gosling says,
No mainstream newspaper or magazine ever questioned the overall justness of the war, but as the conflict progressed, there were opportunities to gently criticise, poke fun or even incite controversial opinion.
And a little further on she talks about those who created the cartoons, sketches and paintings.
Illustrators from this period can roughly be divided into two camps – those who drew scenes and events from the war, either from eyewitness information or first-hand experience, and those who mixed humour, metaphor or caricature to show a lighter side of the war.
Gosling also mentions a third group called soldier-artist.
The book is organized in sections:
- Over by Christmas: The Outbreak of War
- Who’s for the Trench, Are You, My Laddie?: Enlistment, Recruitment & Training
- Frightfulness: Drawing the Enemy
- From Plug Street to Regent Street: Life in the Trenches
- Business as Usual: The Home Front
- The Blue Pencil: Reporting & Censorship
- Carrying On: Women & War
- Back to Blighty: Soldiers on Leave
- Shoulder to Shoulder: Allies
- Venus & Mars: Love: Marriage in Wartime
- Up, Up & Away: Land, Sea & Air
- The Day: Victory & Peace
Several magazines and illustrated newspapers like The Bystander, The Tatler, The Sphere, The Sketch and The Illustrated London News featured these images. Some make you laugh, others are searingly poignant. A few are shocking. In many, the humanity of regular soldiers shines through.
Lucinda Gosling’s collection serves as a reminder that war is bloody and decisions sometimes senseless. I sincerely hope Osprey Publishing decides to reissue her book for the 100th anniversary of WWI.