Hitler Moves East: A Graphic Chronicle, 1941-43 is a unique photography project from US artists David Levinthal and Garry Trudeau that was originally published in 1977. But the book, which documents the German invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II, isn’t quite what it appears to be at first glance. While all the images are photographs, they’re actually all of toy soldiers arranged upon a series of intricately modelled dioramas.
To achieve the skewed sense of realism, Levinthal and Trudeau combined “archival materials” with their miniature settings, reconstructing scenes from Hitler’s eastward expansion that took place between 1941 and 1943. The results are certainly unnerving (images of war, made from toys?) but strangely emotive, bringing together notions of harmless imagined play and its antithesis, the horrors of early twentieth century warfare.
Levinthal has been working with toy figures and tableaux in his artwork since 1972, while Trudeau is more well-known as the creator of the comic strip Doonesbury, which launched in 1970.
“I became intrigued at how seeming reality could be constructed from mere models,” says Levinthal. “Over the more than 30 years that I have been working as an artist, I never ceased to be amazed at how much these figures and toys can tell us about ourselves.”
The pair’s intriguing book, reissued this month from powerHouse Books ($39.95), contains 56 black and white images.