Not many generals can be seen wearing a CND badge but General Jodhpur, illustrated by Michael Foreman in 1961 when he was still an art student, is a general who disbands his army so that the soldiers can return home and make their country ‘the most beautiful in the world’. Janet Charters’s anti-war text is as ironically apposite today as it was in 1961 when US involvement in the Vietnam War was escalating. Its political theme also anticipates the direction that Foreman was to take as the author of his own pioneering ‘political’ picture book texts such as Moose (1972, pacifism), Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish (1972, pollution), War and Peas (1974, Third World poverty) and All the King’s Horses (1977, feminism).
As Foreman’s first picture book, The General is incredibly assured. His trademark dexterity with water-colour wash is consummate in his glowingly luminous depiction of the general’s medal studded uniform and in his depiction of the ploughed field where a former soldier sows seed for the next harvest. Also characteristic are his confidently humorous characterisations of generals and troops. His mosaic city map reminiscent of Paolozzi and his stylised flowers are very ’60s and now full of retro charm. A handsomely produced 50th anniversary edition that is a real treat!