Past Meetup

Lecture: Art and War: World War I

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Portland Roasting Coffee

815 SE Oak Street · Portland, OR

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Lecturer: Morgan Fears
Teacher bio:


The turn of the twentieth century, and the handful of years that bookend it, produced some of the most groundbreaking, paradigm-shifting work in western art. Art history often mines religion or social conditions for symbolic meaning or focuses on paradigm shifts in how art is perceived/created. For this lecture, we will be doing something like a combination of these and something different: exploring the art of the early 20th century through the lens of World War I.

Previous to World War II, this was called the Great War, as there had never been anything quite like it. Outdated modes of thinking about honorable combat and chivalry ran up against machine guns and artillery to disastrous effects. The “lost generation” as they were called, were in so many ways shaped by this war. So we will be examining the artwork made by that generation through the war that moved and shaped them.

We will begin by exploring the war itself, from a purely historical perspective to appreciate its impact, work through the complicated mechanisms of its cause, and see what it was like to survive it.

Secondly, we will turn to how art interacted with war at the first. This will chiefly focus on propaganda as artwork, how preexisting art movements responded to the war, and art as a practical and state-sanctioned practice during the war. We will then move into artists as participants and observers. Some artists served in the war in various capacities, some watched it from the home front or the sidelines. We will explore a couple of these in detail while also looking at some of the most influential war inspired pieces of the period. We will consider this art while looking back at our earlier exploration of the war itself, as a source of social catharsis.

We will close with a brief exploration of artistic movements in the post or rather interwar years, and how we might speculate the war’s effect on this work.

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