Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, October 14, 2016

Albert Robida: The Futurist Who Visualized the Great War

Albert Robida (1848-1926) was a French illustrator, etcher, lithographer, caricaturist, and novelist. His work in which he
visualized coming warfare appeared in two waves.

From 1883 to 1890 he published a remarkable series of magazine pieces and books that addressed future wars, the most famous being "La Guerre au vingtième siècle" (War in the Twentieth Century). His war scenarios are sometimes fantastical–Mozambique takes on Australia in 1975–but his caricature-style drawings capture many aspects of the Great War of the future struggle. 

Many of his predictions would be validated during the war of 1914-1918.:

  •  Railroads would play a dominant role, used for mobilizing and moving troops, and as mobile artillery platforms.
  • Airships and balloons would be used for bombing, firing specialized artillery, and observation.
  •  Chemists would be called on to create asphyxiant gases.
  • Artillery and barbed wire would command the battlefield.
  • Tunneling would be required to attack and advance.
  • Specific weapons would include armored vehicles, bomb-dropping airships, fire and gas projectors, and anti-aircraft artillery.

Robida examined every dimension of future life, but after the turn of the century he returned to future war as a favorite topic and income producer. In a brilliant series for the magazine La Guerre Infernale he covered the same territory, but this time drawing in a more realistic style, updating the look of his soldiers and their weaponry. Once again (see above), his work captures the grimness of World War I battlefields, and the use of airships as a terror weapon. 


  1. Those interested can see a blog posting I did on Robida's war fiction at

  2. I found this intriguing and I just have to find out more about M. Robida. Thanks so much for the further reference above, too.
    D. Beer

  3. Most interesting, and I will look this fellow up !

    Mike Bertinetti

  4. During the Great War he produced an amazing series of lithographs "Les Villes Martyres. Two of his sons died during the War....