'La Guerre Documentee'
the Great War Seen Through Artists' Eyes
Here are a number of oil paintings and prints by various artists that were used as covers for the French magazine 'La Guerre Documentée' (The War Documented). The magazine was a serial publication in 60 issues, each issue containing a number of original, never seen in print before paintings, drawings, etchings and sketches by war-time artists, as well as many photographs and a written text outlining a general history of the Great War as well as a short day-by-day account of events, primarily seen through French eyes. Monthly publication started in March of 1915. After the war, the complete collection was sold bound in 5 volumes, both in simple and in grand deluxe editions..
The publication rivals that of the newsweekly 'l'Illustration' in terms of quality of paper, printing and illustrative material, though the circulation was surely much smaller, nor was it intended to be a newsmagazine, but rather a mix between a semi-serious military history and a presentation of patriotic artistic works. The photographs were chosen around several themes and were of small size, while the art-work was lavishly printed on thick stock paper. The editors, Schwarz & Co. Paris are also known for two other prestigious multi-volume histories of the Great War : 'La Guerre Racontéee par Nos Généraux' and 'La Guerre Navale Racontéee par Nos Amiraux', both published after the war and all abundantly illustrated by renowned war-time artists such as Lucien Jonas, Charles Fouqeray and many others.
'La Guerre Documentée' focuses predominantly on French feats-of-arms and the covers are a triumphant celebration of French prowness on the battlefield. They are also unusual in that many were oil paintings, a different medium from that used in the color illustrations in 'l'Illustration', where most of the art-work was originally done in watercolor, chalk or gouache. The general presentation of 'La Guerre Documentée' is somewhat old-fashioned and dark and somber. This is partly due to the use of dark, overly detailed classical borders and a very rigid and symetrical lay-out for the smaller photographs. Many of the cover paintings however harken back to the days of colorful and heroically dashing pre-war military painting in which attention to detail and uniforms was considered to be of prime importance. The prints published on the inside pages were usually printed in sepia tone and are consequently at times quite gloomy and bleak, all in all fitting in with the mood of the times.
Aside from this, 'La Guerre Documentée' presents artwork not often seen in other publications and that was in the period of mass publication during the first modern war, quite an achievement in itself.
Please note that most of the following scans simply show the cover illustration without the intricate and dark border which was an integral part of the magazine cover. This was done to save time and effort on otherwise lengthy composite scans. The above illustration shows how the magazine originally looked.
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