Fransesque Poulbot
1979 - 1946

Illustrating French Children at War

cover page of a first book of 100 cartoons published by Poulbot during the Great War
'des Gosses et des Bonhommes' (Little Fellows and Good-Hearted Kids)


Fransesque Poulbot's Great War cartoons of French children, are even now still greatly admired and well-known, an honor not normally given to caricaturists and cartoonists, whose work is usually short-lived in appreciation, not only because of ever-changing styles and tastes in the manner of depiction and rendering, but also because humor is ephemeral and usually of little concern to later generations.

Poulbot however managed to create a series of archetypal characters in his cartoons and drawings. During his lifetime, they would have romantically been referred to as 'street urchins', but such a term does not go over well in this present day and age. He took as his example, the typical street children of Montmatre in Paris and used them to populate his cartoons and drawings.

He started his career as an illustrator well before the Great War, drawing cartoons of youngsters and Parisian working-class children, endowing them with far more wisdom and world-wise knowledge than their age would otherwise entitle them to. When war broke out, his 'street urchins' went to war in their own manner, playing at street battles in vacant lots and school yards, uttering their own complaints about rationing and shortages, vowing revenge against the German invaders.

His cartoons and drawings were published in many French magazines, though much like his life-long friend and fellow illustrator Willette, many of his fine color drawings found their way into the pages of 'La Baionnette' first, before being republished elsewhere. He also published collections of his more successful cartoons in two books. The cartoons shown in this section are taken from original editions of both books. He also contributed drawings for posters, many of which are still well-known today.

His cartoons are on the whole endearing and charming, but like almost all French material published during the Great War itself, they were extremely patriotic and at times savagely and insultingly denigrating to anything remotely connected to 'Teutonic' culture or the German population in any way at all. Even German children are portrayed as being vile and despicable.

Poulbot is now often remembered for several of his less bellicose cartoons and drawings. For instance the last one in this collection (that of a French girl laying flowers on a German grave) is still widely reproduced in many modern history books as being representative of Poulbot's work, but as can be seen in the examples shown in the links below, that is sadly not the case. Poulbot was a patriotic Frenchman first and foremost and gave his French public exactly what they wanted to see during war-time : cowardly and lying Germans, healthy courageous French soldiers and admirably wise French children.

In the end, his renditions of the 'street urchins' of Paris justify his career as an artist. When illustrating children playing at mock war, or echoing the grave and important mutterings of their parents, Poulbot is at his best and creates an almost timeless depiction of a (French) childhood spent during war-time.

see also French text article: Le Dessinateur Poulbot

two war-time posters by Poulbot

left : photos of Poulbot from 'Les Annales'
right : a short play illustrated by Poulbot

to a Gallery of Illustrations by Poulbot

Page 01
Page 02
Page 03
Page 04
Page 05
Page 06
Page 07
Page 08
Page 09

left : Poulbot and his friend Willette in the 1930s
(see 'la Baionnette' for covers by Willette)
right : Poulbot in the 1920s

left : a young girl collecting for charity
right : real-life 'Poulbots' on the streets of war-time Paris

commercial succes often leads to imitation and copying
many French magazines published cartoons of a similar nature by other, less well-known artists


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