Hidden history of World War One comes to Warilla Library

It’s hard to imagine finding the ‘amusing’ side of war, however acclaimed World War One cartoonist Hal Eyre did just that with his highly regarded satirical cartoons.

This rarely seen view of the War is now on show at Warilla Library in a free display of Eyre’s work, drawn from the State Library of NSW collection.

Shellharbour City Council General Manager Carey McIntyre welcomed the exhibition and encouraged residents to visit the library and experience a piece of Australian history.

“The display features reproductions of 20 of his most comical cartoons which are beautiful and enlightening illustrations of the debates and controversies of the time,” Mr McIntyre said.

State Library curator Elise Edmonds said cartoons provided valuable social commentary on key historical events.

“Hal Eyre was one of the most important social commentators on the war. Eyre’s cartoons were in great demand during the war and in 1908 he was employed as the regular political cartoonist for the Daily Telegraph,” Ms Edmonds said.

“Over the course of his career, Eyre also worked at Brisbane’s Queenslander and the Daily Mail.”

Eyre (1875 - 1946) was born at Sofala, NSW, and attended school in Forbes and later Bathurst, where he began his artistic career by caricaturing his schoolteacher.

According to Ms Edmonds many of the Hal Eyre sketches hold hidden messages and were products of their time.

“He used animals as metaphors for nation-states, and drew fascinating caricatures of well-known European and Australian leaders. Enemy nations were often represented as prevailing racial stereotypes.” 

In 1920 the State Library purchased 357 original drawings he produced for the paper during World War One. 

Highlights of the Hal Eyre display include:
  • depictions of soldiers at Gallipoli
  • patriotic depictions of the recruitment marches through country NSW
  • heroic Australian diggers triumphing over their enemies
The display will be on show at Warilla Library from 25 August to 1 September 2017.

State Library of NSW interviews and images: Senior Curator Alison Wishart, 92731424 or alison.wishart@sl.nsw.gov.au 

Shellharbour Council media enquiries: Kelli Wells 4220 6038 or 0448 361 008.