War in the Air: Pegoud's Feat


This print showing an airplane attacking a train and troops on the ground is from the collection of World War I lubok posters held at the British Library. The caption explains: “Pegoud, a famous French aviator, made two brilliant flights over German territory, reaching nearly 300 versts into the country. His plane had an open cockpit, and his gunner was named Monteignet. While conducting reconnaissance on the location of the German army, Pegoud and Monteignet dropped several grenades and incendiary bombs and fired two projectiles from a 45 millimeter gun. They managed to blow up two trains carrying troops. The Germans persistently fired at the brave pilots from the ground, but nevertheless, Pegoud and Monteignet descended to lower than 1,300 meters. The aircraft carried carbines in addition to projectiles; together with the load, it weighed about 23 poods.” Lubok is a Russian word for popular prints created from woodcuts, engravings, etchings, or later, by using lithography. The prints were often characterized by simple, colorful graphics depicting a narrative, and could also include text. Lubok gained popularity in Russia beginning in the late 17th century. The prints, which often depicted narratives from a historical event, literature, or a religious tale, were used to make such stories accessible to illiterate people. These expressive prints had a wide range in tone, from humorous to instructive to sharp political and social commentary. The images were clear and easy to understand, and some of the pictures were serialized, predecessors of the modern comic strip. Prints could be reproduced inexpensively, and were thus a way for the masses to display art at home. Initially, this artistic style was not taken seriously by the upper classes, but by the end of the 19th century, lubok was so well-regarded that it inspired professional artists. During World War I, lubok informed Russians about events on the frontlines, bolstered morale, and served as propaganda against enemy combatants.

Last updated: July 23, 2015