Emil Dupuis (1)


This is a complete set of 12 cards published in 1915 and drawn by the French postcard artist Emil Dupuis. This is the only set from WW1 that we have found which specifically has the neutral nations as its subject. They are composed from the perspective of a patriotic Frenchman, whose country was increasingly hard pressed by the Germans in 1915. The cards are rich in criticism of the self-interest, and especially the perceived hypocrisy, of several of the nations that at the time remained neutral. Dupuis makes clever use of symbolism to convey these criticisms. We have here attempted to interpret that symbolism in the light of the individual national cultures and historical perspective for each country. Emil Dupuis is most well-known among postcard collectors for three series of semi - caricature and semi - realistic color drawings that he did of French soldiers at the front (Nos Poilus), soldiers of France's Allies (Nos Alliés) and of enemy Central Powers soldiers (Leurs Caboches). The series presented here was published by "Paris Color", 152 Quai de Jemmapes in late 1915.


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The interpretive text for the individual cards displayed below is by Jerry M. Kosanovich.


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108. United States: "In the shadow of Liberty"
This card is a cutting and explicit satire of America, the world's first electoral democracy. The graphic is rich with the images of hypocrisy. Behind the face of liberty and freedom that the USA presents to the world - as symbolized by the Statue of Liberty given her by France - the nation seeks only material gain from the war in Europe. America pursues the economic stimulus resulting from the war, despite Presidents Wilson's public pronouncements that the law of free sea passage must be respected.

The crucial element in this statement is the passenger ship Lusitania of the British Cunard Line. The Lusitania was sunk by a German submarine on May 7, 1915. Uncle Sam, symbol of the United States, uses a scale to weigh the loss of 1,152 civilians killed in the sinking (including 102 Americans) against the profit made in selling loans and material to the belligerents. He finds it an even trade. In bald fact, hiding in hypocrisy behind the skirts of Lady Liberty, America places its mercantile interests above the principles upon which the nation was founded, and for which the French and British were fighting.


109. Holland: "Poor little neighbor"
Neutral Netherlands was situated hard upon the tremendous carnage and titanic struggle that was playing itself on her doorstep in southwest Belgium and northern France. Within the first two months of the war she found the entire Belgian frontier in the control of German occupation troops. Yet she not only remained an island of non belligerence, but materially benefited from trade with Germany, acting as the conduite for materiel originating from neutral North and South America and Holland's Far East colonies. What Dupuis is criticizing here is not Holland's mercantile collaboration with Germany, but rather the fact that the country represented a cornucopia of agricultural bounty at a time when the Germans were actively destroying the agricultural base in Belgium and northern France in order to subdue those peoples. 

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It should be noted that in point of fact, Holland accepted into her borders, and cared for in a humane fashion, almost one million Belgian and British army and civilian refugees, of whom 300,000 stayed in the country the full four years of the war. Britain acknowledged this generosity, and the progressive forces in the country called upon their government and people to support in a more vigorous fashion relief for the displaced refugees of Belgium.  See on this site "Artists" section, the "Punch cards", card no. 35 ("A plain duty")


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110. Norway: "They float in every direction"
Norway, newly independent of Sweden only in 1905, maintained with its Scandinavian brethren a studied neutrality during World War One. This was despite the fact that a significant portion of the population was vocally opposed to what was viewed as German militarism, and were pro British in their outlook because of a vigorous albeit young democratic tradition. (The Norwegians elected their King.) At the same time Sweden pressured Norway to remain neutral, emphasizing the nation's small population and military weakness, and no doubt out of a fear that Sweden would be pulled into the conflict. 

Pictured in a fjord for which the country is famous, we see solitary Norwegians holding their national flag and drifting on rafts of logs. One suspects that Dupuis is here depicting the fact that the Norwegian people were confused in their thinking, and that the nation lacked a strong enough consensus to be either enthusiastically interventionist on the side of the Entente Allies, or enthusiastically neutral as were the Swedes.


111. Switzerland "Noblesse oblige"
"Noblesse oblige" is a particularly old European concept, arising out of that continent's history of rule by an aristocratic class. It means benevolent or honorable behavior considered to be the responsibility of persons of high birth or rank. Portrayed in the person of a young Swiss girl are that nation's outstanding two activities as a neutral situated physically in the very middle of the warring nations - medical help through the agency of the International Red Cross which was situated in Switzerland, and facilitating the movement of mail between
the belligerents, particularly that to and from prisoners of war.

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 Note that the train at the bottom right is labeled "Grands blessés", which is French for "seriously wounded". While on the surface this card would appear to be a commendation to Switzerland by the artist, it is possible that in his selection of the title "Noblesse oblige", Dupuis is also criticizing the Swiss for posturing as superior moralists in the face of the warring nations. He nevertheless does acknowledge that country's key role as the only international mediator of compassionate relief between the warring nations.


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112. Sweden: "There are certainly some leakages"
The merchant accountant in this picture is standing with a long line of barrels which are labeled "neutral oil" and "neutral grease". In this card Dupuis is directly and unequivocally accusing Sweden of turning a blind eye to the diversion of petroleum products to the Germans. Sweden maintained a studied neutrality, as did her Scandinavion neighbors of Denmark and Norway. However Sweden was a properous nation with a considerable military so she apparently did so more out of self interest than the danger of
imminent harm. Sweden, like Holland, was a major source of materiel crucial to the prosecution of the war by Germany.


113. Spain: "For right and honor alone"
The Entente Allies were quite sensitive to the German propaganda that Great Britain had literally bribed Italy to first remain neutral in the war, and then join the Allies against Austria-Hungary. The theme of a British "John Bull" pouring gold into the hands of Italy was a common image in German propaganda. In this card, Dupuis turns the table on the Germans and clearly states that the Central Powers have bribed Spain to remain neutral in the conflict. Spain, ever vainglorious and posturing, is symbolized as a bull fighter. He accepts the accolades of the crowd not in the form of flowers and thrown hats, but German army helmets filled with gold. 

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In the background, peeking above the edge of the arena seats, you can see the heads of four soldiers representing the Central Powers as identified by their distinctive headgear: left to tight, Bulgaria, Ottoman Turkey, Germany and Austria-Hungary. Again, as with the United States and Sweden, neutrality is identified with material gain over principle.




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