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.