From the late nineteenth century onwards, Albert Robida, a master of futurology, described and depicted in his drawings what the society of the mid-twentieth century might be like. And the picture he provided, often close to the reality, is a surprising one. In it people communicate through and get their information from the telephonoscope (an invention akin to television); they travel by airship or pneumatic tube; and they look to chemistry to produce synthetic foodstuffs.
‘Jules Verne is beaten again and again on his own ground,’ writes Jacques Van Herp, a science fiction specialist. “Is Robida”, he asks, “the Jules Verne of the pencil? He is much more than that. Of the two, he is the true foreteller of the future.” And Pierre Versin adds, “Robida is the only one of the science fiction practitioners of that period to have presented a picture of our present that is not so far removed from reality… There is no work of futurological speculation that can even remotely be compared to his.”
This is work that Dominique Lacaze will lay before us in a series of several articles. Drawing in this first one on illustrations from Robida, Lacaze describes the many technical innovations imagined by the artist and the attendant development of social behaviour.