Monday, March 06, 2017

HISTORY IN ART - The Great War

"How American artists captured the Great War up close" PBS NewsHour 3/2/2017


SUMMARY:  It was a cataclysmic, world-shattering and world-shaping event.  Today we can relive the visceral human effects of World War I through a new exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, which showcases a myriad of iconic images and art for and against the divisive conflict.  Jeffrey Brown reports.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  "I Want You," about as direct as it gets, an iconic image from World War I.

"The Flower of Death," an evocative title for a painting by an American soldier named Claggett Wilson, that captures some of the close-up horror of the war.

Just some of the ways American artists responded to a cataclysmic, world-shattering and -shaping event, the subject of a major new exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia titled "World War I and American Art."

Co-curator Robert Cozzolino:

ROBERT COZZOLINO, Co-Curator:  At heart, this is a human interest story.

JEFFREY BROWN:  You mean the whole war, as big as it was?

ROBERT COZZOLINO:  You have these artists who are thinking, basically, here's this huge global conflict going on.  How do I make sense of it?  And how do I also bring it down to a human level and express either dissent, an urgency for America to take part in it, or to just express what's at stake?

JEFFREY BROWN:  'The Great War' began in Europe in 1914.  The U.S. didn't join until three years later, after an intense public debate over entering a foreign conflict.

Artists weighed in on both sides.  John Sloan's After the War, a Medal, Maybe a Job in 1914 was one of the earliest anti-war drawings.

Marsden Hartley was conflicted.  He lived in Germany and fell in love with a German military officer killed in the war, who Hartley depicted in a series of paintings.

Childe Hassam on the other hand, active in the pro-interventionist movement in New York, streamed flags across his canvasses in support of the allies.

And George Bellows, an early opponent of the war, was moved to support it by a U.S. government report, later disputed, of German atrocities.

ROBERT COZZOLINO:  He's swayed that he has to show what happened.

JEFFREY BROWN:  And he swayed, big time, because this is an atrocity painting, right, on a large scale.

ROBERT COZZOLINO:  Yes, he makes these history paintings about this contemporary event, and he's showing the brutality of these atrocities being committed to citizens.  He's showing it at its most visceral.

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