[August 4, 2013
Images from the earliest modern Afghan Wars
The first military conflict covered by the illustrated popular press after its foundation in May 1842 was a war in Afghanistan. But the depictions of the defeat of the British occupation forces in the Asian borderland, which was of equally vital strategical importance for the British as for the Russian Empire, were solely fictitious and reconstructive. Also the events of the following Afghan war, which took place three decades later during the heyday of pictorial reporting, were only witnessed by very few of the special artists of the illustrated press on site. Most of the sketches appearing in the international journals came from members of the military forces. Among the few artists who had the courage and the experience to enter the rough and difficult terrain was William Simpson, the doyen of professional war illustration and one of its most brilliant representatives. In Afghanistan, Simpson also continued the extensive ethnographic and archeological studies of Asian culture he had begun in the early 1860s in India and in the Himalayas.