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Print Collection 12: French Postcard Series

Les Affiches de la Grande Guerre | Francisque Poulbot | Hansi | Les Ruines de la Grande Guerre

Affiches de la Grande Guerre

One prominent series in the Collection is the French Affiches de la Grande Guerre (PC-001 through PC-020). Printed by the Éditions des Petites Affiches de Normandie, this series showcases wartime propaganda posters from Allied nations. The subjects of the posters range from recruitment and financing to food conservation and charity involvement. These types of postcards were a convenient means of bringing the messages on the original posters to a larger portion of the population. They also enabled those without the ability to collect actual posters to do so in miniature. Because the posters depicted in this series represent many of the different languages of the Allies, their function as public information in France was most likely secondary to their commemorative value.

Françisque Poulbot (1879-1946)

The Collection features two postcard series by French press illustrator and humorist Françisque Poulbot, who specialized in depicting the life of the poor, particularly of the street urchins of Montmartre. Poulbot's cartoon drawings of these children were widely recognized, so much so that un Poulbot became a colloquialism for a Parisian child. Later in his life, Poulbot organized Le dispensaire des petits Poulbots, a charity to better the lives of these children. During the war, Poulbot's portrayals of children were reproduced on prints, posters and postcards. Both postcard series included in the Collection — Petits Français (PC-021 through PC-031) and Poulbot (PC-032 through PC-060) — illustrate the effect of the war on children, sometimes humorously and sometimes tragically. One 1915 postcard (PC-029) shows children walking down a path. One boy insists to the others, "Oui mais, il est fort papa, plus fort que dix boches" ("Yes, but daddy is strong, stronger than ten Germans."). Another (PC-025) shows a child swept up in a wave amid the wreckage of the RMS Lusitania with the text "Maman! Pourquoi?" ("Mother, why?").

Hansi (1873-1951)

Hansi (born Jean-Jacques Waltz), a prolific Alsatian illustrator before the war, produced numerous prints and postcards during the war years. Most Hansi postcards included in the Collection are anti-German caricatures and scenes of idyllic French rule in Alsace-Lorraine. PC-068 is a Hansi print that shows three poilus looking across fields at the Strasbourg Cathedral. Text in the upper left corner delivers a quote from Victor Hugo — "Ce ciel est notre azur, ce champ est notre terre! Cette Lorraine et cette Alsace, c'est a Nous!" ("This sky is our sky, this field is our land! This Lorraine and this Alsace, they belong to us!") The Collection also includes a series of Hansi caricatures such as "Civis Germanus Sum" (I am a German citizen) (PC-061), which shows a stout man in a Tyrolean hat gazing out at the viewer. (See more about Hansi in Prints).

Les Ruines de la Grande Guerre

Photojournalistic postcards also became popular during the war. Photographers in the employ of print publishers and printers traveled the countryside, following troops and documenting the results of the fighting. Their images of soldiers, convoys and bombarded landscapes provided the material for countless postcard series that documented the war. While capturing history, these series remained selective in what they depicted. Rarely showing actual battles or dead soldiers, they more often focused on the aftermath of battle, particularly on the ruins of towns. Images of bombed buildings, destroyed bridges, rubble-covered fields and enormous mine craters are typical of these aftermath series. Out of more than 200 postcards featuring French war ruins in the Collection, forty belong to the series Les Ruines de la Grande Guerre (Ruins of the Great War) (PC-130 through PC-167, PC-432) and feature war ruins in Soissons, Crouy, Vailly and Anizy-le-Château. Ravin de Sainte-Berthe (PC-432) shows a smattering of stripped tree trunks in a desolate valley, while Intérieur de l'église (Interior of the Church) (PC-156) shows the ruins of a church in Vailly.

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