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Artistic Expressions and the Great War, A Hundred Years On

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Edited By Sally Debra Charnow

The Great War set in motion all of the subsequent violence of the twentieth century. The war took millions of lives, led to the fall of four empires, established new nations, and negatively affected others. During and after the war, individuals and communities struggled to find expression for their wartime encounters and communal as well as individual mourning. Throughout this time of enormous upheaval, many artists redefined their role in society, among them writers, performers, painters, and composers. Some sought to renew or re-establish their place in the postwar climate, while others longed for an irretrievable past, and still others tried to break with the past entirely.

This volume offers a significant interdisciplinary contribution to the study of modern war, exploring the ways that artists contributed to wartime culture – both representing and shaping it – as well as the ways in which wartime culture influenced artistic expressions. Artists’ places within and against reconstruction efforts illuminate the struggles of the day. The essays included represent a transnational perspective and seek to examine how artists dealt with the experience of conflict and mourning and their role in (re-)establishing creative practices in the changing climate of the interwar years.

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4. Immigrant Jewish Artists and Masculinity in France during the Great War (Richard D. Sonn)

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RICHARD D. SONN

Immigrant Jewish Artists and Masculinity in Franceduring the Great War

ABSTRACT

Immigrant Jewish artists working in Paris before World War I had to decide when war broke out whether to return home and face being drafted into the German, Russian, or Austro-Hungarian armies, remain in France as a non-combatant, or join the French Foreign Legion. Choices were more limited for citizens of Germany and Austria-Hungary, who were enemy aliens. Polish Jews from the province of Galicia, which included the city of Kraków, had to fight for France or their homeland. Two of these Jewish artists fought a duel on the eve of the war, demonstrating their virility in a typically Gallic way; then one returned to fight for Poland, while the other fought for France. Other artists, especially those from Russia, remained in France as civilians, and contributed to modern art despite the war.

After losing disastrously to the Prussians in 1870–1871, then finding their country surpassed economically and demographically by the new German Reich, many French people felt a pervasive sense of decadence that has become synonymous with the term fin de siècle. The sense of decline was abetted by economic depression, which lasted on and off until 1896, by political crises such as the Panama scandal which included some prominent Jewish bankers, and by a wave of anarchist bombings that culminated in the assassination of the president of France in 1894. That same year,...

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