World War I and Modern Art

World War I, from its apocalyptical battles and astounding death tolls to its destruction of the old world social order, profoundly re-defined Western culture and society. Visual artists could not remain silent in its presence. This talk by Donna Cassidy Ph.D., Professor of American and New England Studies and Art History at University of Southern Maine, will examine how modern artists, both European and American, responded to this war—the soldier’s perspectives in Otto Dix’s and Ernst Kirchner’s work, memorials to the dead by George Bellows and Marsden Hartley, the celebration of warfare among the Futurists and Vorticists, the nihilism of the Dadaists, and Käthe Kollwitz’s voice of protest. It will also consider other aspects of World War I visual culture: the use of art to heal shell-shocked soldiers and the posters that both encouraged men and women to enlist and made the enemy objects of hatred and evil.

Marsden Hartley, “Still Life with Eel,” oil, c. 1917, 30×25, gift of Mrs. William Carlos Williams