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The First World War and its aftermath was a watershed in the history of twentieth century art. Many artists who were at the forefront of the modernist Avant-Garde were called to the colours of their respective nations. As soldiers or official war artists they produced an extraordinary range of striking images that convey the immediacy and horror of their experiences and feelings.
The concepts of modernism developed and changed during and after the Great War, and the artistic movements of Cubism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Futurism and Vorticism were all reshaped and reformed. For example, in France, where the movement had begun its development, Cubism was deemed during the war barbaric, German, and therefore unpatriotic by critics who were previously favourable. In Britain, however, the interest and acclaim shown during the exhibitions of war artists’ work boosted the acceptability of modernist art movements in the public arena.
A number of ‘avant-garde’ artists are considered as to how their individual experiences of the Great War were reflected in their works. There is a bias in this lecture towards British artists in that many paintings can be seen at the Imperial War Museum in London and other British regional galleries. However, French, German and Italian artists’ works are discussed and compared to see what the national and stylistic differences were.
Martin Heard, Art Historian
After a career in fine art publishing and information technology, Martin has returned to his first love of art history. For the past ten years Martin has been able to follow his interests and his research includes travelling and visiting art galleries and places of interest to support the subjects he specialises in.
Presented in association with the Wellington Decorative and Fine Arts Society.
Feature image above: Detail from: Returning to the trenches, 1916 Drypoint, by C R W Nevinson (British 1899-1946)