GALLERY: French First World War prints set to go on display in Cambridge museum

09:56 16 May 2014

La Grande Guerre. Picture: FITZWILLIAM MUSEUM, CAMBRIDGE

La Grande Guerre. Picture: FITZWILLIAM MUSEUM, CAMBRIDGE

Photograph copyright © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

A fascinating selection of French prints from the early stages of the First World War will shortly go on display at an exhibition in Cambridge.

The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge is marking the centenary of the conflict with a free exhibition called La Grande Guerre: French prints of the First World War, which opens on Tuesday and runs until September 28.

The display comprises 36 colour lithographs and woodcuts from the print series La Grande Guerre, produced in the first seven months of the conflict.

Intense battle scenes are joined by images depicting relatively quiet moments in the front line, including English and Scottish troops taking a tea break and Indian soldiers at prayer.

Published in Paris, the series took inspiration from popular genres of prints, such as the folklore inspired images d’Épinal, produced in Épinal in the northeast of France.

Many 1914-era prints were produced in this style, as they could capture the nation’s role in the war in a French way.

The stylised imagery helped maintain an element of distance from the increasingly appalling reality of the Western Front.

The prints are not official propaganda material, but are still very patriotic and the numbered series format encouraged the public, eager to commemorate the war, to continue collecting the set.

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