"The Day of the Hairy"


  • The Day of the Hairy, October 31 - November 1, 1915.

  • Hairy Day, December 25 and 26, 1915.

The Day of the Hairy, October 31 - November 1, 1915.

© Contemporary Collections

Hairy Day, December 25 and 26, 1915.

© Contemporary Collections

Publication date: June 2006

Historical context

A long-lasting war

The episode of the Battle of the Marne at the beginning of September 1914 united the French behind their fighters. Now sustainable, daily, non-heroic, this long war requires the mobilization of the whole of society and results in the sacralization of the figure of the hairy.

Image Analysis

French solidarity: the "Sacred Union" to the test

The first poster, dated November 1915, represents two soldiers at the front: the frame is emblematic of the war of position. The ruins visible in the background, as well as the dead tree, recall the destruction suffered by the French regions of the East and North. The woodwork that surrounds the image, the clay embankment, situate this scene with particularly precise details in one of those trenches which, by the thousands, protect France. The heroic aspect of this historic resistance against the German enemy is illustrated by the reproduction of the message of Gambetta, hero of the National Defense of 1870. However the poster artist does not draw the combat, but a genre scene in the style of classical paintings showing the rest of the soldiers. Here he creates a stark contrast between the soldier seen from behind, plunged into the shadow of war, on the alert, and the soldier seated in bright light. His smile radiates violently, like the sun, the entrance to the casemate, because he has just received a package from the collection organized in the back. The two medals reproduced on the top left and right, parodies of military medals, are those that the contributor received as a pledge of his participation.

The second poster, posted two months later on another "hairy day", places the action behind and no longer on the front. The line and the color are less precise, the drawing is closer to the press drawing. In fact, the information is more sober, clearer. Instead of a stylized title that is difficult to read, we have here, in a clearly delimited frame, an advertisement that stands out in red on a white background. The involvement of the authorities of the Republic is highlighted, to encourage the French to contribute once again. At the center of the image, this time, the two characters are children caught on the spot in their quest for funds from passers-by. The slogan, embodied by the phrase the children say, insists on the rest of the brave. However, the war is very present in this image: the little boy wears a kepi identical to that worn in the infantry at the start of the conflict. The "hairy medal", which adorns his chest and testifies to his participation in the war effort, is reminiscent of those which reward the fighters themselves. The slightly older girl is dressed as a nurse - a reminder of women's commitment to war.

Interpretation

Hairy and children, same fight

From the first months of the conflict, the word "hairy" became in common use in the sense it had in military slang at the end of the 19th century.e century: "courageous", "brave". The wearing of beards and mustaches by soldiers at the front then participated in the great success that his employment had as a familiar term for the father, the husband, the son, the brother who sacrificed himself for the civilians in the rear. The two posters illustrate two opinion campaigns that follow one another in rapid succession. The dates chosen are symbolic: the 1er November is All Saints Day, December 25 is Christmas Day. The first poster is therefore about those who have fallen in battle, who endure the worst in a sort of kingdom of Hades that stretches 800 kilometers in the east and north of the country. The second poster, without denying the horror of the war and the necessary solidarity of all French people, abstracts from the front and proposes a Christmas truce, a return to family and civilian life. The two drawings illustrate the experience of the war by the French. To the mustached faces of the hairy, weathered by hardship, answer the innocent and imploring faces of children, perhaps destined to become orphans. As was often the case at the time, the image of children is doubly instrumentalized: first, we seek to attract the attention and compassion of adults. Children are also provided with care and are forced to adopt, more and more often, adult concerns and behaviors. This endeavor alone is a testament to the breadth and depth of all-out war.

  • army
  • War of 14-18
  • nationalism
  • hairy
  • propaganda

Bibliography

Jean-Jacques BECKER, The French in the Great War, Paris, Robert Laffont, 1980. Jean-Jacques BECKER and Serge BERSTEIN, Victories and frustrations, Paris, Le Seuil, 1990. Laurent GERVEREAU, "Propaganda by image in France, 1914-1918. Themes and modes of representation" in Laurent GERVEREAU and Christophe PROCHASSON, Images of 1917, Nanterre, B.D.I.C., 1987.Yves POURCHER, Days of war. Day-to-day life of the French between 1914 and 1918, Paris, Hachette, coll. "Pluriel", 1995. Stéphane AUDOIN-ROUZEAU, Children's war, 1914-1918: Cultural History Essay, Paris, Armand Colin, 1993. Pierre VALLAUD, 14-18, World War I, volumes I and II, Paris, Fayard, 2004.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "The Day of the Hairy" "


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