Coquelicot Art of the First World War
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Alfred Kubin, Die Kriegsfackel (The Torch of War), 1914, Oberösterreichisches Landesmuseum, Linz.

© SESAM, Paris, 1998.

War declared

2 - Alfred Kubin

A change in tone: by December 1914, Kubin (1887-1959) a major symbolist artist, had lost faith in a "fresh and joyous war" or in a quick victory. Above the burning houses rises up the sinister allegory of death that Kubin had already drawn on many previous occasions, denouncing human cruelty, mixing the sarcastic and the macabre. Throughout the war - in which he took no part - he obsessively drew skeletons, witches and ghosts, to give shape to his fears.

2-Kubin" A bailiff looking like a funeral parlour organiser, who, in order to spare the family, said to us " 'Gentlemen, go to the Post Office in the Rue Rabelais ... Go quickly, you'll be the first.'

The first, but what for?

The first to read the piece of blue paper, like an ordinary telegram, bearing the handwritten decree ordering general mobilisation which a young post office worker was sticking up above the printed matter box. We were joined by passers-by and we formed a group which grew by the minute. "Read it out!" somebody cried. There was not much to read, but the text was clear enough. One of us read out the short but forbidding pronouncement. All around us there was an indefinable kind of hush. Then the shout went up, 'Long live France!' "

André Salmon, Souvenirs sans fin, deuxième époque (1908-1920) (Endless memories, second period), Paris, Gallimard, 1956.