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

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Extreme Propaganda on the Allied Side: Kultur Cartoons by Will Dyson with Foreword by H.G. Wells

This 1915 book from  Australian and soon-to-be war artist Will Dyson and the well-known Mr. Wells speaks for itself.  I present the full foreword by Wells and a representative sample of the cartoons drawn by Dyson.


It is one of the curious facts one learns at the beginning of one's physiological studies, that when the optic nerve is pressed or injured it records not pain, but visions, and that the auditory nerve protests by sounds and voices. So it is with Mr. Dyson, who responds to all the fearful pressure of this war in cartoons. He perceives in militaristic monarchy and national pride a threat to the world, to civilization, and all that he holds dear, and straightway he sets about to slay it with his pencil, as I, if I could, would kill it with my pen. He turns his passionate gift against Berlin.  

For some years now many of us have followed the inexhaustible comment of this  extraordinary  artist with increasing admiration; we have come to realize the consistency of his attitude and the peculiar conventions he has established for himself. He has an extreme distinction of personality, a  simplicity and cleanness of mind to a rare degree; he believes so in the good and generous things in  life that he cannot realize anyone adhering to mean and squalid ways when once the truth of their meanness has been asserted.   

Though his work has been published mostly in a daily “labour” paper, its direction and appeal have been steadfastly to the ruler, the employer, the responsible men. Don’t you see, he has said in a thousand cartoons, how disgusting it is to be a “fat man” in a world of ignoble advantages? Can you really keep on as you are keeping on after I have drawn you like this? And his rendering of the devil is intensely characteristic of him. None of your high-browed Satans for him. His devil is a gross beast, with a small brain-case and huge belly and loins—a disgusting beast of a devil. If it had a big brain then Mr. Dyson would be certain—very eagerly do I subscribe myself his adherent—that it would stop being a devil and regulate loins and hoof and belly into a tolerable seemliness. The enemy of mankind is lumpishness and foolishness sustained by the universal fool.  

So in this issue of the war Mr. Dyson takes a figure based on the Kaiser, but essentially a symbol, on which to concentrate his hatred of the foolish assumptions, the cruel vanities, the vile waste of opportunity, the perversion and destruction, which is his case against militant monarchy. I could wish he were given the task of the Kaiser's court painter, for indeed he would make a record that would kill regal ambition to the very end of time. And supporting the Dysonised Kaiser is a German figure of fat foolishness. You may argue that it libels the dignity and intelligence of the loyal and able staff at Berlin and the nature of German loyalty, but Mr.Dyson will never believe you. He has penetrated deeper. The folly and the dullness of spirit must be there; loyalty to evil things is the revelation of a kindred evil. "What business had you Germans with loyalty and obedience ?” he would say. “Your business under this stuff was revolution.” And as the work of this clumsy devil to whom Europe has given herself over, look at his caricature of apes in an aeroplane dropping bombs, or of Kultur being told to fetch the warriors boots. Was there ever a completer and juster repudiation of the belligerent theory of life?  



  1. The combination of sketches and text make for great reading! Thank you.