In Pictures

World War One: Painted postcards sent from the trenches

Painted postcard of fallen Frenchmen in the Champagne

A series of hand-painted postcards sent from the trenches reveal one German soldier's intimate view of World War One.

Art student Otto Schubert (1892-1970) was 22 years old when he was drafted into the war. As the conflict unfolded, he painted a series of postcards that he sent to his sweetheart, Irma.

During the battles of Ypres and Verdun, Schubert filled dozens of military-issued postcards with vivid images depicting the daily realities and tragedies of war.

Following the war, Schubert went on to become a prolific graphic artist and book illustrator.

Created in the midst of devastation, his painted postcards and their messages give powerfully personal insights into events one century ago.

Painted postcard of a figure holding a stick

Field Postcard [undated/postmarked 27 November 1915]

My dear Irma! Many greetings. Received your letter last night. How nice it must have been in Rockau [outside of Dresden]. How much I would have liked to have been there. Let us hope for next winter, shall we? Many greetings to your dear parents. Short on field postcards. Soon the last ones. Maybe you can occasionally send me a few of the kind like the last ones, it is very easy to paint on them. Hopefully you are doing well? Letter follows.

Presentational grey line
Painted postcard of a small village in France

15 December 1915, Small Village in France

Dear Irma! Many thousand greetings. Your Otto. Just write me a lot. No letter from you for so long. Yesterday received the field postcards. I also sent a card to your brother. I'm really fed up with life!!!

Presentational grey line
Painted postcard of a group of people sat at a table

23 December 1915, No. 13. The Most Beautiful Hour of the Day

Dear Irma, a thousand greetings, Otto. The mail has been delivered. Good cigars and more. A letter. But in the newspaper there is nothing about peace?!

Presentational grey line
Painted postcard

16 January 1916

My dear Irma! Received your mail in the trench this morning, newspaper and package. Made me very happy. Now I will eat 'high on the hog' [ich werde hohe Tafel halten] and, while doing so, I keep thinking how beautiful it would be if only we could do this at home. Thousand greetings to you. Your Otto

Presentational grey line
Painted postcard of a tree in a rural landscape

25 February 1916, Landscape in the Ardennes

Dear Irma! As soon as I can, I will answer your letter. I do not feel the best right now. But hope the discomfort is temporary. Your Otto

Presentational grey line
Painted postcard of captured French soldiers

1 April 1916, Argonne. French Prisoners [captured French soldiers]

Dear Irma, a thousand heartfelt greetings from the hot West. Your Otto. With many greetings home. Most beautiful weather to go for a walk.

All pictures extracted from Postcards from the Trenches: A German Soldier's Testimony of the Great War by Irene Guenther, published by Bloomsbury Visual Arts.

Related Topics