In November, Hofstra University will be hosting the ‘Artistic Expressions and The Great War: A Hundred Years On’ conference at Hempstead, New York. I am excited to be presenting a paper on portrayals of the soldier and his horse in the British illustrated press.
More information about the conference can be found here:
Here is what I will be talking about:
Portrayals of the Soldier and his Horse in The War Illustrated, 1914 to 1918.
Publications like The War Illustrated brought news of The Great War into the home. The war illustrators provided visually entertaining images of major battles, of acts of heroism and of moments of drama and pathos. Increasingly, however, photographs were also used and, while it was not yet possible to take cameras into the thick of the action, photographers did capture something of what life on active service was like for the soldier.
Photographs and images of the soldier and his horse also allowed the British public to imagine war. For example, images of the soldier’s care for his horse provided reassurance and comfort, because they implied that he had not been de-humanised by war and that his capacity for compassion and kindness survived. The horse was a safe medium through which to safely portray the aftermath of battle and to deal with difficult subjects such as death and wounding. Conversely, humorous photographs and illustrations of soldiers and their horses also provided opportunities for humour and some much-needed light relief.
This paper considers how portrayals of the soldier and his horse altered as the War progressed and as public feeling shifted; from dramatic scenes of bravery, to the more contemplative mid-war images of 1916 and 1917. The War Illustrated allows us a privileged glimpse into the emotional lives of the British people as they lived through The Great War.