A rare album of comic First World War postcards by ‘saucy seaside’ artist Donald McGill has been uncovered after it was sold at auction.
The Inter-Art Company’s book, printed in 1917, shows hundreds of tongue-in-cheek war illustrations in chronological order.
The album was bought at auction by James Bissell-Thomas, owner of the Donald McGill Postcard Museum in Ryde, Isle of Wight.
He said: ‘It’s so exciting to have found this album at auction. I knew the book existed, but I thought that over the years it may have been broken up and the postcards sold off individually.’
A rare album of comic First World War postcards by ‘saucy seaside’ artist Donald McGill has been uncovered after being sold at auction
McGill was known for his ‘saucy seaside’ postcards but the collection up focuses on the work he did on life on the front and back at home during the First World War
McGill’s postcards were illustrated to boost morale and this card pokes fun at German soldiers with the caption: ‘War Note: The British force is now operating an ”extended front”
While many of McGill’s postcards helped boost the morale of soldiers, he also tried to put a smile on the faces of the families awaiting their return – as can be seen in these postcards
The Inter-Art company was based in Red Lion Square in London and operated from 1909 until 1931.
It was renowned for its comic propaganda postcards printed during the First World War by artists including McGill, Dudley Buxton, Agnes Richardson and Arthur Butcher.
The postcards from 1917 by McGill and his contemporaries poke fun at the harsh conditions on the frontline with tongue-in-cheek images and phrases.
The cards show the men serving at the front as well as the realities facing their families at home and the designs cover issues such as rationing, home service, war profiteers, recruitment and soldiers in training.
McGill is famous for his comic seaside cards but during the war he produced an incredible 1,500 different designs of patriotic postcards.
He lost his foot in a rugby accident so he couldn’t take part in the fighting, so instead he helped the war effort with his positive postcards.
Many of the postcards in the The Inter-Art Company’s book, printed in 1917, were used for propaganda purposes, like this one that encourages young men to sign up for the army with the slogan ‘It’s the clothes that make the man’
This is another example of McGill’s illustration being used for propaganda, with a card encouraging women to do their bit to help the war effort
McGill often focused on the relationship between men and women for his postcards and here he plays on the ‘Great Push’, a term used to describe the British army’s advance across no man’s land
McGill’s postcards were incredibly successful, with millions sold in England and France, while some were even translated into French
Millions of his cards were sold in England and France, with many even translated into French.
One of his postcards shows a soldier on crutches, who has lost his leg, talking to a woman and she asks: ‘Poor fellow – have you been wounded?’ He replies: ‘Wounded? Oh no miss! The colonel’s cat bit my leg off!’
Another image shows a soldier almost bent double under the weight of all his military equipment and the words: ‘I love the life, but oh you kit!’
A picture by his contemporary, Arthur Butcher, shows a soldier passionately kissing a woman and the slogan: ‘I see you’re doing your bit!’
Whilst another of Butcher’s drawings shows a woman cuddling a baby, with the words: ‘We can’t bear arms, but we can bear armies.’
McGill makes light of safety precautions taken by British civilians during the First World War, with many people in cities made to adhere to blackouts in fear of Zepplin raids
Left, is an example of the bawdy jokes that would accompany many of McGill’s illustrations, while poking fun at the physical conditions of soldiers was another recurring theme in his work
While the photo album features many examples of McGill’s work, it also includes illustrations by his contemporaries including these two postcards by Arthur Butcher
Left, this illustration by Dudley Buxton, a contemporary of McGill, also references the Big Push and right, shows a soldier with a broken leg and arm heading happily back to England with another soldier looking on longingly
A postcard by artist Dudley Buxton, also in the book, makes fun of the terrible conditions of the trenches by depicting a man in a suit trudging through the rain and the words: ‘This is as bad as the trenches!’
Another picture by Dudley shows a soldier with a broken leg and arm heading happily back to England with another soldier looking on longingly, with the tongue-in-cheek slogan: ‘Lucky Devil!’
McGill went to art school in London and began his professional career as a naval architect, then as an engineering draughtsman.
But in 1904 at the age of 30 his postcard career kicked off by accident when he sent a cartoon to a nephew in hospital of a man up to his neck in a frozen pond.
The caption read ‘Hope you get out!’ and was forwarded to a publisher who commissioned his work.
McGill went on to produce 12,000 different seaside postcards throughout a successful career, but in 1954 he was charged with publishing obscene images and four of his cards were banned immediately, while seventeen more banned once existing stocks had been sold.
At the height of his fame McGill only earned three guineas a design, but today his postcards are highly sought after with his original artwork going for up to £1,700 in auction and up to £2,500 in London Galleries.