Eduardo Garcia Benito (1891-1981)
En Avant !! (Janvier 1915)
Advance !! (January 1915)
Lithograph with hand colouring through stencils. Publisher: Tolmer & Co. January 1915.
Given by Sophie Gurney 1994
No. 35 from the 2nd series La Grande Guerre.
This is the first print of the second series, which begins in January 1915 and takes as its subject the conflict in the Bois de la Grurie, in the forest of Argonne (France's Champagne region). Fierce fighting took place in this area as the German army tried to reach Verdun. Both sides dug trenches into the ground, which was dense with trees. Censorship in France had been strong from the outset of the war. French authorities were keen to encourage the French public to believe that there were legitimate grounds to hope for victory, but without the slightest suggestion that victory might be imminent.
The image does not convey the horror of trench warfare, where mud-soaked soldiers lived in waterlogged dug-outs, without access to latrines and with no opportunity to dry their clothing. The wet also brought additional dangers: infections, infestations equipment failure and the collapse of trench walls. Image and caption focus instead on the military objective, which remained steadfast: the invaders would be expelled. The print's caption ends optimistically, see below.
The prints of the first series (nos. 1-34) are not signed, but the majority of the second series (no. 35-) appear with the signature 'Benito'. Eduardo Garcia Benito (1891-1981) went on to become well known as a fashion illustrator. His images are mostly executed in woodcut. The second series has a slightly different format to the first, with the caption in a block on the right-hand side of the margin, and no mention of the publisher's address.
The French caption with English translation:
EN AVANT ! ! (Janvier 1915).
Le début de l'année 1915 est marqué par une reprise d'offensive. L'avance de nos braves est lente mais irrésistible, dit le communiqué officiel. Ce ne sont plus les charges folles du passé, mais une avance méthodique et raisonnée. Voici nos braves dans le bois de La Grurie. Après avoir gagné une tranchee, ils se préparent à bondir pour en conquérir une autre. Ils avancent par bonds de quelques mèters, en utilisant tous les mouvements du terrain. Pensons à la fatigue de ceux qui luttent inlassablement depuis cinq mois, sans trêve, sans repos et souvent sans sommeil, avec quelquefois de l'eau jusqu-aux genoux ; malgré tout ils sont pleins de confiance, car ils savent que l'année qui commence ne s'achèvera pas sans que l'ennemi soit bouté hors de France.
Advance! (January 1915)
The beginning of 1915 was marked by a renewed offensive. The advance of our brave soldiers is slow but irresistible, said the official statement. These are not the mad attacks of the past, but a methodical and reasoned advance. Here are our brave soldiers in the wood of La Grurie. After having won a trench, they are preparing to leap to conquer another. They advance by leaps of a few metres, using every kind of ground movement. We think of fatigue of those who fight tirelessly for five months, without a break, without rest and often without sleep, sometimes knee-deep in water. Yet they are full of confidence, because they know the New Year will not end without the enemy being driven out of France.