Early Modern Art, Oh My!

In the beginnings of Modern Art (1900-1939) World War I had a large impact on the art of that era. Artists were very conflicted with what was going on in the war and began giving the public a way to see behind the scenes. Art such as paintings, drawings, and photography depicted the harsh reality of what many of the young men were facing during this time. Many artists moved towards modernism because those earlier Victorian forms no longer seemed adequate in the face of the period’s upheavals (Merijan, 2014). Each artist that I have picked below uses their own style to demonstrate the war of the time. My focus was on the influence that WWI had on art because I think it can be a very controversial topic and a hard to swallow one at the least and seeing how each artist molded it to their own demise. The three pieces I have picked really take you on a emotional rollercoaster as they all very showing differing viewpoints on the same war.

Gino Severini, Armored Train 1915, Paris


Severini actually painted this piece the year Italy went into war. His poor health prevented him from enlisting in the military but it caused him to become obsessed with this fully mechanized war. He was living in Paris at the time of its bombardment where he sat from his studio watching the Denfert-Rochereau station and the trains transporting soldiers, supplies and weapons. In the painting above, five unrecognizable soldiers crouch from a locomotive car aiming their refiles into the clouds of smoke. The bright colors in this painting almost make it look happy because Severini celebrated war believing it could generate a new Italian identity – one of military and cultural power, this idealism was shared across many futurists of the time.

The elements that were shown in this piece were form, using three dimensional shapes showing height and depth in many of the cube like features. Line that showed the painting defined by a point moving in space creating a three dimensional abstract line. The last element of art that I noticed was color that was shown through the uses of bold variant colors of different hues, values, and intensities. Severini used bold opposing colors to highlight certain areas of focus in this piece. Personally, I really like the bold and cubic shapes in this piece. Severini really draws a positive reaction from me even though I am personally against war.

Otto Dix, Storm Troopers Advancing Under Gas 1924, Berlin


Otto Dix had created this piece almost ten years after the conflict had begun. His pieces (part of a portfolio called Der Krieg) neither glorifies nor heroizes its soliders but shows the horrible realities experienced by someone who was there in that moment. Dix was an artillery gunner in the trenches at the Somme and the Eastern Front, focused on the aftermath of battle which was the dead, dying, and shell shocked soldiers, bombed out of landscapes and graves. Dix manipulated the emotional meticulously rendered images of horror from this mind. He created ghastly white bones and strips of no mans land, and used multiple acid baths to eat away at the images, mimicking decaying flesh.

The elements of art that I found in this piece were value, using the lightness and darkness of the tones of black, white and gray to create a omniscient feel of the piece. Line was another element I found in Dix’s piece, two dimensional descriptive lines showed the horrors of the piece. And finally, space was used in the piece to show the horrors that seemed to be towards the bottom of the piece and the use of negative and positive space to persuade the viewers eyes where to focus on. This piece is a very haunting image esspeically knowing that this is really what he saw and created, the harsh reality which he endured and had to deal with for the rest of his life. I think that is the most scary part, and he was not the only one who had to live with images like that, this piece really pulls on my heart strings feeling sorry for all the young men and boys that had to go through with that.

Paul Iribe, I Have You Captain, You Wont Fall 1917


Paul Iribe was a french illustrator and designer in the decorative arts. He worked in Hollywood in his twenties and was Coco Channels lover from 1931 to his death. Not much is known about him other than his political drawings and his time in hollywood.  He created a journal called Le Temoin which was a compendium of social and political satire with his own artwork and contributions by other well known artists of the day. This led to the piece shown above, most of his work of that time was Propaganda to promote the french as they were going to war with the germans (I Have You Captain, You Wont Fall). Most of his work was done in blue red and white to promote the french flag but this piece varied in his traditional three colors. In the piece above, a french soldier cradles his captain as he is wounded showing caring and compassionate nature which is unusual for most of the art created in this war time.

The elements shown in this piece are shape, showing flat features limited by height and depth. Color, bold bright singular colors make many pieces in this image pop to the viewer. And line, which creates distinctness between the chaos of explosions happening in the background. This piece reminds me of a comic book using bold monetary colors that pop. The explosions in the background create a halo around the captain which saddness me as if you knew he was a create man and how is going to go into heaven. The theme I picked for this assignment greatly effects me due to the fact of the constant theme of death and how most of the soldiers went into it thinking that they might not make it back.

Merjian, Ara. “How World War I gave birth to the modern (Opinion).” CNN. Cable News Network, 09 Nov. 2014. Web. 03 Apr. 2017.



  1. Very well crafted analysis, Bridget. I was very intrigued by the first piece by Gino Severini. You noted how he had a positive view on the war, as a way of propping up Italy as a world power. To me this was a unique view for an artist during this era. I felt that much of the art influenced by the world war was used to show the horrific outcomes caused by war and give viewers a glimpse into the dark results by the new and advanced form of warfare. In Otto Dix’s painting, the gasmasks show the prevalence of the use of mustard gas during this war. To me, his dark and gloomy colors show a more widespread emotional reaction to the war at that time.
    Another interesting point is how revolutionary France was on art, during this era. I found out during my research that Picasso had moved from neutral Spain, into France during the war. The art in France during this time was very dynamic with change with a hot bed of various artists in a relatively small area. Its an interesting point on the influence of the war, in how it indirectly produced a dramatic change in the style being produced during this era.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I liked your blog very much Bridget, especially the first artist Gino Severini. I found it very interesting how he couldn’t enlist in the military, and became obsessed with the mechanical warfare. It is interesting how Severini created a story with shapes and color. Nothing looks realistic but I can still tell what the painting is of.


  3. Great selection of artworks Bridget. All 3 pieces you chose had something that makes you stop and think. In your first choice I definitely agree with you about the painting seeming happy because of its bright color, you for a second forget its a painting addressing war. This painting is definitely a great example of futurism as one can notice with the use cubism to represent rapid movement for instant the machine gun. The second painting speaks volumes for what war looks like. The gloom and darkness in the image already let you know that something bad is going on. I think the masks bring attention to the innovating war weapons. In the third paint all I could think of when I first so it was wow! lots of color and lines which makes your eyes move everywhere on the painting. As you mentioned the lines definitely signify chaos and explosives in the background. I like your comment about the image being like a comic I definitely see that.


  4. Bridget, it is always lovely to hear from you and your insights into the following topic. I did not write about World War I, and so it is interesting to see what others seemed to learn about other significant moments in United States History. Like always, I enjoyed the pieces of work you choose to speak on. Each of them are uniquely different however, they all tell the same story of war. I enjoyed all your pieces particularly that of Gino Severini, and Paul Iribe. Each was able to use abstract forms to create beautiful pieces, bringing to life the stories of this time period. In bright, vibrant colors. Your piece by Otto Dix, was not particularly a favorite of mine due to its dark appeal. However, the story it tells of the awful tragedies that many faced during this time.


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