Wartime musings (2/4)



Jacques Henri Lartigue never experienced war firsthand; rather, he observed it from afar. The discrepancy between what he imagined war to be and its gruesome reality is troubling.

Rather than attending school, Jacques was tutored at home. Hence, he was never exposed to the widespread belligerent and vindictive propaganda in French schools during the Third Republic. This explains to a certain extent why it may have been difficult for him to understand and talk about the war, which was never part of his everyday life. His lack of understanding is evident in his diary entries; any mention of the war appears to be an afterthought, except when it directly concerns him or his brother Zissou being drafted. Furthermore, his comments usually express an oversimplified view of the military and of the geopolitical issues of the time. For example, the August 10th entry reads : « The French continue their advance in Alsace !!! (Hooray!!). Liège is still holding out!! (Hooray!!)   Serbia defeated Austria !!! (Hooray!!) ». If Jacques had no news of the war, he simply wrote  « nothing new ». Such a pithy remark shows a vague sense of awareness, lacks insight and contrasts ironically with the grim reality of the soldiers on the front line.

In his 1914 album, images related to the war amount to heroic portraits : a tribute to his friend Oléo killed on August 13th, his mother in a nurse’s uniform…


Wanda Woloszyn