Joseph Lesage (1884-1918)
Soldier and artist in the First World War

The second prize

In 1917 an important exhibition of works made by soldiers at the front was organised in Paris, at the museum “ Jeu de Paume ”. The works which were sent in had to pass military censorship. A jury in Paris decided which soldier-artist qualified to exhibit his works. Joseph Lesage exhibited 12 works which were all sold. In connection with this exhibition a poster-contest was organised. 329 posters were submitted to the jury. The poster of Joseph Lesage won a second prize.

One of the preliminary sketches is shown here next to the prize-winning poster. This sketch carries the text:

“ A la recherche d’un motif ”.
(“Looking for a motive ”).

A perfectly legitimate observation for an artist looking over the landscape of Verdun. But as a double meaning it is also the outcry of a desperate soldier:

“ What for God’s sake is the motive for this all ?”

This text would never have been accepted by the censorship. When making this drawing Joseph Lesage had just finished two months of frontline-duty near Verdun.