Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Art of the First World War

The First World War, which ended a century ago, killed at least 10 million soldiers and millions more civilians, led to the Russian Revolution, the Great Depression, the rise of fascism and Nazism, and World War II.  The guns fell silent at the 11th hour of the 11th day, of the 11th month. Clearly, the armistice makers had a sense of history. WWI was not the first war to be photographed or filmed, but none had ever produced so many images in those media. The war also produced a huge body of painting and art, most by those who fought. Here are a few examples, in realistic and more modernist styles.

C.R.W. Nevinson, "Paths of Glory" 1917. "Dulce et Decorum Est, Pro Patria Mori."

Nevinson, "Harvest of Battle" 1919. Blind leading the blind.

Nevinson, "Machine Gun," 1915. French soldiers.

Frank Branwyn, "Tank in Action" (1925) Painted for a public building in Britain. Rejected as "unacceptably morbid." In other words, too accurate.

Henri de Groux, "Gas Masks" (1916). French soldiers. Note resemblance to pigs. Asphyxiation by gas was perhaps the most horrible way of dying.

George Leroux, "L'Enfer" ("Hell") 1917, Suitably named. Artillery killed more men than any other weapon.

William Orpen, "Dead Germans in a Trench" 1918

Paul Nash, "The Menin Road" 1919

Nevinson, "Taube" 1916. Child killed by German aerial bombing. Total War.

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