The Great War 1914-1918
Creating New Art for a New War: A Centennial Project
Starting on January 1st, Art History Unstuffed begins a new series, featuring an international body of art that has long been forgotten in art history. The art–from prints to posters to paintings to sculptures to trench art–made during the Great War has been the interest of specialists but never entered the mainstream of art history. This lacunae has created a four year gap in the account of modern art. But artists continued to make wartime art that showed the impact of the world wide conflict upon the soldiers who fought it and the people who waited and served at home. The website will spend the next year bringing back this trove of original and unique art, shedding light on a significant but neglected project. For four painful years, artists from all over Europe and American struggled to express and depict a struggle that was a futile as it was wasteful.
John Singer Sargent. Gassed (1919)
The only precedents these artists had were triumphal images of adventure and victory, left over from the nineteenth century. But the Great War had few victories and lacked adventure and glory. Instead of romantic dreams of manhood, the generation who fought this war found mud and death and oblivion, living in daily terror of technologically advanced mechanized warfare that dehumanized everyone. Faced with the unprecedented, artists were forced to confront the question–how can one make art during a war such as this? The coming year will study their answers, absences, and silences, highlighting their achievements in dark times.