Back page, upside down. A practice title page, overtaken by events as the war progressed.

Back page, upside down. A practice title page, overtaken by events as the war progressed.

There is no name in this sketchbook, but many of the sketches have faded inscriptions in French. 

Osnabruck, featured on one of the later sketches, was a German prisoner of war camp for French officers - so I've assumed the artist was a French officer.

This is my subjective interpretation of the sketchbook. 

Not long after the outbreak of war,  a French officer was sent to the battlefields at Yser in Flanders. 

He was fascinated by the picture on the wall of a farmhouse - perhaps a billet. It was an exotic scene with monkeys and tropical scenery. He practised on the back pages of the sketchbook - monkeys in various poses in pencil, parrots in ink. When he was happy with the models he sketched the room in fine detail on the last page of the book.

He then practised the title page. L'Yser les Flandres 1914 - 1915 in a frame, with 73 Etai in the corner. Some practice fleur-de-lys. Then a second attempt (above) - L'Yser les Flandres 1914 - 1915 in a bigger frame, on the back page.

And then the battlefields changed, and he found himself near the Chemin des Dames. He sketched the rural idyll around Paissy, where the church sat atop the hill overlooking a row of houses in tree lined streets, surrounded by cultivated fields. He sketched the peaceful scene on the second page of the book, allowing for the title page.

 Sur Chemin des Dames  l'Eglise de Paissey

Sur Chemin des Dames  l'Eglise de Paissey

The church at Paissy was destroyed in 1916, and the surrounding countryside devastated. The title page was no longer relevant.

Instead, he sketched the camp au fond Chemin des Dames 1918 on the first page, in front of the rural idyll at Paissy before it was destroyed.

The next sketch is from the POW camp at Rastatt in Germany in 1918. The following pen and ink sketches are scenes from the prison camp, often through barbed wire. The focus is on the world beyond the wire and the beauty of the countryside.

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There are many blank pages following Rastatt. 

Finally, on the white pages at the end of the book, there's a pencil sketch of a man - who could be himself. He is perhaps in pyjamas, relaxing on a bed, reading a book.

This is followed by the two-page spread of peaceful farmland, with farmhouses, trees, and cultivated fields. There could be tobacco leaves drying in the sun. Fluffy clouds drift across the sky. This is Osnabruck 1918 - the German POW camp for French officers.

His war is over, and he has survived.

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