On 4 August 1914 the French prime minister René Viviani read an address to parliament prepared by President Roland Poincaré: ‘In the coming war… France will be heroically defended by all its sons, whose sacred union in the face of the enemy will be unbreakable’.
The term ‘sacred union’ (L’union sacrée) came to stand for a united national community, in which political, religious and trade disputes were put aside. The series of prints entitled La Grande Guerre was published in 1914 in Paris by the firm Tolmer & Cie (‘& Co.’), who went on to specialise in children’s books after the war. The prints were in fact reissued in segments with a new title page entitled ‘Beautiful Images designed for French children’.
However, this wording does not appear on any of the prints themselves. They bear a resemblance to a genre of popular prints, the most famous of which came from Épinal. Many prints issued in 1914 embraced this style as it would be recognized patriotically as inherently French. Each sheet was printed with a descriptive caption and the sentence ‘this is the nth print in a series that will appear throughout the war’, thereby creating a sense of visual reportage and encouraging buyers to continue collecting the set.
The prints are set out in chronological order.