Art of War: Political Humor

“During The Big Brawl: Humorous Imaginings” (“La Grande Bagarre: Fantaisies Humoristiques”) is a collection of political cartoons created by Gustave A. Wendt between 1915 and 1916. The illustrations are done in pencil, watercolor, India ink, gouache and some colored inks. 
 
These imaginative and colorful images depict the politics and nature of war in comical cartoon form, but their fanciful nature does not lessen their seriousness.  The themes of the subjects depicted range from the German Kaiser’s son “Willie” dressed as a clown dancing across Europe, to a skeleton cavalryman, riding a horse newly reclaimed from its grave, holding a lance with the Kaiser’s head tied to it. Humans, animals, puppets, and ghouls are used to communicate what war brings to humanity—from its absurdity to its brutality.  
 
Humor is at the heart of these drawings, and Wendt’s artistic style provides a colorful palette for his imagination, but the humor contends with the realities of human behavior at its most irresponsible and short-sighted.  
 
  • “During The Big Brawl: Humorous Imaginings” cover (“La Grande Bagarre: Fantaisies Humoristiques”)

  • "The Ancestor" The Swiss national folk hero William Tell is depicted scraping a name off a monument that reads “Tell/Year 1292”, his trusty crossbow leaning against it. Sitting on top of the monument is Tell’s son, Walter, holding an arrow that has been shot through an apple (off the boy’s head!)

  • "Theater of the Dance: A Lesson to 'Father Sausage'" From upper left to bottom right: A Belgian soldier beats the German emperor Wilhelm II wearing a military uniform complete with spiked helmet, “And one!” In the next, a French soldier beats Wilhelm “And two!!” A British soldier is beating the increasingly bruised Wilhelm “And three!!!”; a Russian soldier knocks Wilhelm unconscious “And smack! for your head cold!”

  • "Imperial Bluff" In this watercolor, an unidentified German officer is depicted as a hot air balloon being blown back while tied to a sailboat, made of a wooden shoe and paper sail, referencing “Iser”. A German helmet and howitzer can be seen in the flooded background, the flotsam and jetsam of arrogant, overarching military might.

  • "Looping the Loop’ by the Clown Prince ‘Willy’ like his ‘Papa" The German Imperial Crown Prince Wilhelm, son of Emperor Wilhelm II, is portrayed as a comical clown with the Prussian eagle, the imperial German symbol of the nation, on his chest somersaulting between the Eastern and Western borders of the fight.