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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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13. Spirits, Specters, Saints in Memorializing the Great War (Nora M. Heimann)



Spirits, Specters, Saints in Memorializing theGreat War


Supernatural and allegorical figures who inspire or intervene to bring salvation, victory, or death appear in a vast array of forms in all the combatant nations of the Great War. This pervasive leitmotif, which began at the outbreak of hostilities and continued through the interwar years, will be explored through the prism of war memorials produced by prominent artists from the three leading Allied Powers: Maurice Denis’s La Bataille de la Marne (1920, Gagny: Église St.-Germain), John Singer Sargent’s Death and Victory and The Coming of the Americans (1922, Harvard University), and Stanley Spencer’s Resurrection of the Soldiers (1928–1932, The Sandham Memorial Chapel). These works share the intersection of the natural and supernatural in commemorating those who suffered and died in between 1914–1918, and all of them were produced by leading vanguard artists. Yet they vary greatly in their settings and formal language. In this paper, I consider the role of spirits and spectres in the visual culture of France, England, and America during the Great War, and their appearance in private and public memorials after its end.

Supernatural, spectral, and allegorical figures who inspire or intervene to bring salvation, victory, or death haunt the art of the Great War. They appear in a vast array of forms in all the combatant nations, including feature films, inspirational literature, sermons, sheet music, occult publications, postcards, war posters, and even war...

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