Nov. 11, 2018 commemorated 100 years since the end of World War I. Generally referred to as the first “total war,” WWI blurred the boundaries between front and home front, forever changing the face of modern warfare. By its end, the “Great War” was one of the deadliest armed conflicts in history, with the toll of civilian and military casualties reaching 40 million. In its aftermath, the rise of social and political movements in many countries supported suffrage and political activism by minority groups, but also caused a radicalization of nationalist movements. This led to totalitarian regimes in several countries, as well as changes in political configurations on the world stage. Today, representations, reactions and responses to WWI are found in art, film, literature and theatre throughout the 20th century and all over the world.
University of Toledo brought scholars from various disciplines and institutions to discuss and critically examine cultural representations and memories of WWI.
Paula Reich, Interpretive Projects and Managing Editor, Toledo Museum of Art, spoke on “Art on the Front Lines.”
How does art respond to war, especially war on a previously unimaginable scale? For avant-garde artists in Europe during World War I — many of whom served in their nation’s armed forces — this was an urgent question. Their personal experiences of the Great War, whether on the front lines or on the home front, suffused their art, even decades later. As these artists sought to understand, reflect on, and even reject a world irrevocably transformed by the War, new movements and philosophies arose, among them Dada, New Objectivity, Supremacism, and Surrealism. Avant-garde movements that preceded the War, such as Cubism, Expressionism, and Futurism, were altered by their encounter with it. This presentation examined some of the ways in which World War I remade the face of Modern art and culture, reshaping attitudes toward the Machine Age, political revolution, utopian ideals, and the very concept of art.
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