‘Never Again!’ New exhibition of rare wartime cartoons

‘Never Again!’ – New exhibition brings rare wartime cartoons into public viewAs the world commemorates the centenary of the First World War, a fascinating selection of rare postcards and trench publications will go on show to the public for the first time.

Discovered as part of a pioneering research project at the University of Lincoln, UK, the collection of French and German postcards and newspapers produced by front-line soldiers expose the thoughts and feelings of those serving throughout the First World War.

The revealing materials will form part of the new Never Again! World War I in Cartoon and Comic Art exhibition, which opens at The Cartoon Museum in London on Wednesday 11th June 2014.

The materials from soldiers’ trench newspapers were uncovered by Jane Chapman, Professor of Communications at the University of Lincoln, during a major research project exploring the cultural impact of wartime comics, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Since 2011, Professor Chapman and her team of researchers have been scouring archives across the UK, Europe and the USA to uncover long-forgotten cartoon depictions of the two world wars, and exploring their influence on the public consciousness and cultural heritage.

Professor Chapman said: “The harsh realities of trench warfare created a poignancy of humour through pain: ordinary people, including soldiers, were producing their own newspapers, and some were creating early comic strips when they were surrounded by suffering and death.

“This centenary year offers us an opportunity to reflect on the experiences of our ancestors 100 years ago, and I am delighted to be able to bring into public view these previously unseen illustrations. Some of the most powerful and memorable images from the First World War were created by cartoonists, and these materials provide a unique insight into the thoughts of the soldiers in the trenches, and their families back home.” 

From the earliest days of the war, British cartoonists such as Alfred Leete, Bruce Bairnsfather, William Heath Robinson and Donald McGill were at the forefront of propaganda battles aimed at bolstering the war effort, ridiculing the enemy and sustaining the nation through four years of conflict.

Alfred Leete’s famous recruiting cover for London Opinion featuring Lord Kitchener was never an official poster, but remains one of the abiding images of the First World War. For many, Bruce Bairnsfather’s ‘Old Bill’ became the face of the long-suffering Tommy in the trenches. They were criticised in parliament as ‘vulgar caricatures of our heroes’, but Bairnsfather’s down-to-earth drawings were loved by the men at the front, and helped to raise more than £250,000 for the soldiers’ tobacco fund. 

The power of the wartime cartoon was also highlighted by the illustrations of Dutch artist Louis Raemaekers, which were reproduced around the world and widely credited with helping to persuade the Americans to enter the war.

Never Again! World War I in Cartoon and Comic Art brings together over 300 images by these artists and many more. Visitors to the exhibition will discover political cartoons from newspapers and magazines, children’s’ comics, cigarette cards and colourful comic postcards, illustrating themes from life in the trenches and air raids, to food shortages and popular wartime songs. 

For more information on the exhibition, visit www.cartoonmuseum.org/what-s-on.

Story Credits

Elizabeth Mitchell - PR Officer

Elizabeth Mitchell – PR Officer 

E-mail: emitchell@lincoln.ac.uk 

Telephone: 01522 837650