Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Lest We Forget

CRW Nevinson, 'After a Push', 1918
There were a few activities organized by different departments across the college to mark today’s hundredth year anniversary of the beginning of World War 1.  I held a presentation of art created from the period by different artists from both Britain and Germany, as well as looking at more contemporary examples by artists in more recent conflicts.  Here are some of the examples of paintings I shared with my students and colleagues today to remember the terrible loss and sacrifice made by so many, and the key role art, from painting to poetry, has played in helping us attempt to understand the horrors of war and conflict.  
CRW Nevinson, 'Bursting Shell', 1915
Paul Nash, 'The Ypres Salient at Night', 1916
Otto Dix, 'Der Krieg', etching and aquatint, 1921
Otto Dix, 'Skat Players', oil and collage on board, 1920
The brilliant Otto Dix, like so many German artists, was never afraid to look at things head on. Here in this painting he mercilessly depicts the former generals and officers who sent so many innocent men to their deaths with their terribly mutilated bodies and crude artificial limbs and 'tin jaws', yet still looking smart in their uniforms, medals proudly worn. Sights of ex veterans like these were common on the streets of post war Germany.
Henry Tonks, 'Portraits of Injured Soldiers', pastel
Tonks, a former doctor before becoming an artist, was asked to detail the terrible facial injuries suffered by 15% of soldiers on the frontline to aid early practitioners of plastic surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons. 
Peter Howson, 'Bosnian Harvest', 1994
Howson, a former soldier himself, was commissioned by The Times and The Imperial War Museum to be the official War Artist in Bosnia in 1993. Gruesome scenes like these, where local women collect the mutilated limbs of dead civilians, sent Howson to the edge of a breakdown.

Lest we forget.

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