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Artistic Expressions and the Great War, A Hundred Years On


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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7. Civilians Seeing the War: Olga Rozanova’s and Aleksei Kruchenykh’s 1916 War (Mechella Yezernitskaya1)



Civilians Seeing the War: Olga Rozanova’s and AlekseiKruchenykh’s 1916 War


In 1916, Olga Rozanova (1886–1918) and Aleksei Kruchenykh (1886–1968) published an illustrated print album titled War in response to the outbreak of World War I. As civilians with several removes from the battlefield, the artist-poet duo produced the album separately and remotely across the Russian Empire. Weaving image and text, the album displays a mixture of classical and contemporary iconography that mines the very nature and temporal experience of war. Through visual and literary analysis, the author examines the album within the socio-historical context of the civilian experience of seeing and living the war away from the frontlines.

A woman encased in armour brandishes a sword in one hand while wielding a trumpet to her lips in the other (Figure 7.1). The crest and plumes of the helmet crowning her classical profile evoke the galea worn by ancient Roman soldiers. An unfurled banner with the word voina, Russian for ‘war’, hovers above as she gazes in one direction while her bare feet face the other. This feminine embodiment of war is a figure of mythic proportions that recalls not only the legendary Amazons, a bellicose society of warring women, but also the Greek mythic figure of Cassandra – who prophesied the war that led to the fall of Troy – and the Greek and Roman goddesses of war, Athena and Bellona.

Figure 7.1: Olga Vladimirovna...

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