The French Allies Have a Cart Filled with Captured Germans


This World War I propaganda poster, designed by the Russian artist Kazimir Malevich (1878–1935) in collaboration with fellow artist Vladimir Mayakovsky, depicts French and British soldiers carrying off captured German soldiers in a cart and a tub. The rhyming couplets at the bottom by Mayakovsky read: “The French Allies have a cart filled with captured Germans, and our British brothers have а whole tub of them.” In the early stages of the war, a number of Russian avant-garde artists, including Malevich, Mayakovsky, and Aristarkh Lentulov, formed the group Segodnyashnii Lubok (Today’s lubok), which produced satirical anti-German and anti-Austrian posters and postcards to support the Russian war effort. The name originated from the traditional Russian folk prints, lubok, which combined simple pictures and narratives from popular tales. These artists adapted the style of lubok to their posters, making them readily accessible to the masses and effective as a way of strengthening national morale. The image in this poster, for example, of soldiers being “harvested” would have been understandable to common Russians, peasants in particular. The Ukrainian-born Malevich studied art in Kiev and Moscow. He experimented with realism, impressionism, and cubism before turning to what he called “suprematism,” which focused on pure geometric forms and color. Malevich explained his theory of suprematism in essays and applied it to visual works, notably the stage sets he created for Mystery Bouffe, a 1918 play by Mayakovsky. Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, Malevich held important administrative and teaching positions, but he came under attack after the Soviet government condemned modernist and abstract art as decadent and bourgeois. His works were largely forgotten for a time, but he is now recognized as one of the major artists of the 20th century.

Last updated: November 14, 2017