British artists and World War I, exhibition


This video from Berlin, Germany is about Käthe Kollwitz, artist and World War I opponent.

By Tom Pearse in England:

World War I remembered through British art

Truth and Memory at the Imperial War Museum, London, until March 2015

6 September 2014

A major retrospective at the Imperial War Museum (IWM) London features the work of British artists sent to capture the reality of the First World War.

Compelling works reveal how artists helped commemorate “the war to end all wars.” They also highlight the dilemma facing official war artists. While many of the artists started the war at least generally supportive of its aims, they confronted something rather different at the front. Their portrayal of the horrors they witnessed does not always sit uncomfortably with official requirements.

The works are divided between two galleries, Truth—artists who created on the front line; and Memory—artists who painted their works on returning to Britain.

Truth is the more sobering. Visitors are confronted first with two paintings illustrating official British sentiment at the start of the war. William Barnes Wollen’s large Death of the Prussian Guard (1914) presents the first battle of Ypres as a moral triumph over Prussian militarism. Walter Sickert’s Integrity of Belgium, painted late in 1914, endorses support for “gallant little Belgium” in its noble and glamorous depiction of physical warfare.

Both paintings support the justification of British involvement in the war in defence of Belgium and in opposition to German militarism. This propaganda promoted British imperialism at the cost of millions of lives.

The rest of the gallery portrays a very different conflict. Two rooms feature works by Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson and Paul Nash, both appointed official war artists in 1917 for the Department of Information.

Nevinson had been associated with the Italian Futurists before the war, collaborating with the movement’s founder Filippo Tommaso Marinetti on a 1914 English Futurist Manifesto: Vital English Art. Marinetti had promised to “glorify war—the world’s only hygiene—militarism, patriotism, [and] the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers.”

Initially, therefore, Nevinson was interested in glorifying the war as a triumph of technical achievement. His style changed after the horrors of the front. The “essence of the new war,” he said, “was overwhelmingly extremely alien, and utterly un-heroic.”

He is best known for La Mitrailleuse [The Machine Gun] (1915), “an example,” in the words of the London Evening News, “of what civilized man did to civilized man in the first quarter of the 20th century.” It does not really stand up to this praise: it shows less of the realities of war than it does a Futurist glorification.

Memory contains a room devoted to the Vorticists, whose manifesto bore some similarities to Futurism, with its call for a “strong, virile and anti-sentimental” art. In Percy Wyndham Lewis’s A Battery Shelled (1919) the soldiers are insect-like stick figures. Lewis likened the First World War to an absurd nightmare, removed from everyday reality. The IWM distanced itself from his work, loaning it out long term to the Tate Gallery.

Percy Wyndham Lewis, A Battery Shelled, 1919

Nevinson’s French Troops Resting and The Doctor (both 1916) show a sympathetic realism. Of the image of a dead child in A Taube (1915), completed in Dunkirk after an air raid, Nevinson said: “there the small body lay before me, a symbol of all that there was to come.”

Nevinson’s depictions of death, like the portrayals of destruction by Paul Nash that hang alongside them, are apocalyptic. Paths of Glory (1917) was banned from public display, as it depicts two putrefying British soldiers lying face down in “no man’s land.”

C.R.W. Nevinson, Paths of Glory, 1917

Another similar picture did not attract the censor. The Irish-born William Orpen’s Dead Germans in a Trench (1918) also shows soldiers putrefying in their trenches. The Times said Orpen “paints the corpse with serene skill, just like he might paint a bunch of flowers.” The censor allowed this painting because, unlike Nevinson’s, it showed enemy corpses.

Orpen was criticized in the press, but achieved popular acclaim for his sympathetic response to what the IWM call “the madness of war.” Works like The Mad Woman of Douai (1918) and Blown Up—Mad (1917) portray its harrowing effects. He depicts trench warfare in grim detail but seems, in the words of his contemporary John Rothenstein, to have “found it difficult … to come to terms with the broader implications of the war.” This is a wider problem here.

Orpen had been associated with the Celtic Revival, seeking artistic expression for an Irish national identity alongside the literary Celtic Twilight movement. Orpen, who went to the front as an official war artist, remained a loyal figure within the British Empire despite his anguish at what he saw of the war. He was knighted by the British crown after the war.

What Orpen saw at the front affected him deeply. Most of his images, some of the most powerful here, come from the Somme. In August 1917 Orpen came across a vast cemetery where British troops had buried their own dead but left the Germans to rot. Like Dead Germans in a Trench, Orpen’s Thiepval (1917) leaves us with a dismal image of mud-baked white and the remains of a British and German soldier, their bones entangled in death.

Such sympathy was often based on personal experience. In “Over the Top”, 1st Artists’ Rifles at Marcoing, 30th December 1917 (1918), John Nash (Paul’s brother) recalls a disastrous action that resulted in the death and wounding of nearly his whole company.

Many of the artists emerge as deeply conflicted. Orpen, for example, despised the post-war vainglory of those military figures who commissioned him for portraits. Despite this, and his own depictions of imperialism’s effects, he was knighted for his war work in June 1918.

Another Irish official war artist represented in the Memory gallery, John Lavery, was also knighted for his work. He painted a portrait of Michael Collins after the pro-Anglo-Irish Treaty Sinn Fein leader’s assassination. Orpen and Lavery both gave the IWM substantial art collections after the war.

Lavery’s Lady Henry’s Crèche, Woolwich (1919) is one of several pieces showing women’s auxiliary work for the war, including Anna Airy’s Shop for Machining 15-inch Shells (1918). Airy, one of the first official women war artists, was employed by the IWM when it was first established. The Museum could refuse any work she produced, without payment.

Anna Airy, Shop for Machining 15-inch Shells: Singer Manufacturing Company, Clydebank, Glasgow, 1918

Memory also marks the memorialisation of the dead. George Clausen’s Youth Mourning (1916), inspired by the death of his daughter’s fiancé the year before, stands as an elegy for a lost generation; a powerful image of grief and sacrifice. Clausen was appointed an official war artist in 1917, but could not travel to the front because of his age.

George Clausen, Youth Mourning, 1916

The most striking work here is the final painting in the Truth gallery, Gassed: In Arduis Fidelis (Faithful in Adversity) by Gilbert Rogers (1918). In stark contrast to Wollen’s work opening the gallery, Rogers hauntingly depicts a dead medical officer lying alone in the mud surrounded by puddles of water. The officer’s gas mask is turned towards the observer, a disturbing image that stays with you.

Gassed: In Arduis Fidelis (Faithful in Adversity) by Gilbert Rogers

The exhibition is significant. The paintings do not just document the conflict. They raise questions about it.

The IWM was first proposed in 1917 as a “national war museum” to document the experiences of World War I. Its remit was extended in 1939 to cover the next world war. During the Korean War coverage was extended to “all conflicts in which British or Commonwealth forces had been involved since 1914.” Since then it has also expanded to run the Royal Air Force museum, the museum on World War Two warship HMS Belfast, and the War Rooms of Winston Churchill. While the IWM can be blunt about certain realities of conflict, it is also an official repository, pushed towards “approved” versions of history.

Like other cultural repositories in Britain, even the flagship museum of the government’s Great War centenary has not been immune to budget cuts. The IWM’s government grant has been reduced significantly, and it relies on private funding more than ever.

It also has to satisfy its 22 trustees, who are appointed variously by the monarch, the prime minister, the foreign secretary, the secretary of state for defence, and the high commissioners of the seven Commonwealth governments. The board currently includes leading military figures like former secret intelligence head Sir John Scarlett, as well as the billionaire Conservative donor Lord Ashcroft. This is a highly political body.

In October 2012 Prime Minister David Cameron opened the centenary campaign at the IWM announcing £50 million of funding, including an upgrade to the museum.

The portrayal in Truth and Memory stops short of analysing the wider implications of what the IWM calls the “epoch-defining events of the First World War.” Its focus, rather, is a sense of ordinary people working together in a difficult but necessary situation without commenting on the reasons. Overall its memorial to British sacrifice fits perfectly with David Cameron’s notions of “Britishness.”

IWM publicity underscores this: “At the turn of the last century, art in Britain held a position and status in society quite different from today and was often regarded as having a social function. In particular, images of warfare imparted notions of identity, culture and morality, enshrining these as the ‘truth’.”

The exhibition’s strengths lie in what it shows of the realities behind such notions. Artists in the current epoch confront the necessity to go further.

The exhibition, which is free of charge, runs until March 8, 2015.

World War I, art exhibition in The Hague


This is a video about German anti-war artist Käthe Kollwitz.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

World War I in art

Thursday, May 29th 2014, 07:25 (Update: 29-05-14, 08:01)

By our reporter Jeroen Wielaert

The craters, soldiers with gas masks, a clenched fist with the caption No More War. They are moving drawings about the First World War. Historical documents by Otto Dix and Käthe Kollwitz, part of the collection of the Gemeentemuseum, along with lesser-known Dutch work. Hell opens on Ascension Day, in the Berlage Cabinet of the The Hague museum. The exhibition is called simply “The Great War in pictures”.

Otto Dix was a German soldier; still optimistically, he entered the war and came out of it full of grim specters. He made numerous striking drawings about it. In The Hague there are only a few to see, but they all impress strongly, as critical hits full of commentary on the war.

Käthe Kollwitz lost a son already early in the war. He was killed in Flemish Diksmuide. On her posters she protested vehemently against the violence and its consequences. She drew widows, begging children. [Museum director] Tempel: “She campaigned against war, as if she sensed there would be another one.”

The Netherlands

The First World War in the Netherlands was very palpable, despite the neutral stance of the government. The artist Jan Toorop, who lived in Domburg in Zeeland, saw refugees from Belgium there and heard their stories. In pastel, he made an impressive picture of people in disaster, in a bombed city: Belgique Sanglante, Bleeding Belgium .

The Hague contemporary artist Harald [sic; Harold] de Bree leaves a little more to the imagination. A collage of him in the exhibition shows the barrel of a gun, a photograph of an internment barracks, a noose for strangling and a few strips of barbed wire.

Skulls

One wall is covered with front pages of the magazine De Nieuwe Amsterdammer. Piet van de [sic; der] Hem drew in April 1915 a skull with a long nose from which a gas stream descends into a trench full of soldiers.

Tempel also points to the hourglass on the cover of the magazine’s New Year edition. Skulls start to roll again, with the caption: “We start again from scratch.”

It is a century later, there is fighting in many places; war has not been eradicated yet.

See also here. And here.

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Dutch general praises jihad in Syria, World War I


This video from Britain says about itself:

Afghanistan Drone War: protest held outside British airforce base used in Afghan drone war

29 April 2013

In scenes reminiscent of the anti-nuclear weapons marches in the UK decades ago, around 400 peace and justice campaigners descended on a Lincolnshire RAF base in east England after it was confirmed by the Ministry of Defence that the military compound is being used by the airforce as a launchpad for drone missions over Afghanistan.

General Peter van Uhm in 2008-2012 was commander-in-chief of the Dutch armed forces. Which then, as now, were involved in war in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Now, retired General Van Uhm has expressed sympathy for confused Dutch teenagers going to the bloody war in Syria. Boys who often end up there in fanatically religious sectarian paramilitary organisations, with big chances of getting disabled or killed. Or girls, who may end up as ‘religious military prostitutes‘, and have big chances of getting disabled or killed too.

Why are these Dutch teenagers (and teenagers from other countries) so confused that they end up in Syria?

In the Netherlands (and other NATO countries) mainstream media and politicians often depict the regime in the Syrian capital as the only cause of bloodshed in the country, by default depicting all armed oppositionists as freedom fighters. Last summer, Syria (like happened to Yugoslavia, Iraq, etc. before) in war propaganda became ‘the new nazi Germany'; worth of risking the start of World War III for, according to neoconservative ideologists. Fortunately, a nuclear World War III then did not start about Syria. Mass popular opposition led to unexpected defeat for David Cameron’s war-minded government in the British House of Commons. Let us hope that plans to use the crisis in Ukraine to start a nuclear world war will go the same way.

Meanwhile, the CIA and other governmental organisations in NATO countries, and in Arabian peninsula absolute monarchies allied with NATO, keep arming sectarian paramilitary groups in Syria. So, if a foreign teenage boy goes to fight in Syria, then he may claim with some justification that he does things similar to his government’s.

There is still another cause sending confused teenagers to Syria. In the Netherlands (and more or less similarly so in other western countries), most of these young people are from immigrant worker families from Islamic countries. Every now and then, xenophobic bigotry, sometimes against all immigrants, sometimes especially against Muslim immigrants, sometimes especially against Muslim immigrants from Morocco, gets rampant among Dutch media and politicians. If you are a young person in the Netherlands and you’re not white, then it’s harder to get a good job, or any job. If you would like to go to a discotheque, then a doorman may stop you because of the colour of your skin. The xenophobic Islamophobic PVV party of Geert Wilders, allies of the French neo-fascist National Front and other extreme Right parties in Europe, recently was more or less officially part of the Dutch government (they had an agreement, giving them influence on government policies, to prop up a minority right-wing coalition administration).

While, as we saw, media and politicians in the Netherlands (and in other NATO countries … and in Qatar and other Arab Peninsula dictatorial allies of the self-styled “Free World”) on the one hand often depict sectarian war against the Syrian regime as “good war”; on the other hand they often depict confused teenagers joining that “good” war as criminal dangerous terrorists. Police and secret services spy on them and arrest them. Recently, a boy from Amsterdam was jailed for “preparing” to join the war in Syria.

That is one face of the Dutch official establishment.

Now, back to another face of the Dutch establishment; General van Uhm. Translated from Dutch daily De Volkskrant of today:

Ex-Commander Van Uhm: respect for people going to war in Syria

By: Janny Groen – 05.05.14, 06:02

General (retired) Peter van Uhm respects Dutch people joining the war in Syria because they stand up for their ideals. According to him, these young people ‘in one way or another think that they need to make the world a better place.” He does not share their ideology.

Van Uhm said that in the radio documentary “Lost sons – a century at war”, which aired last night on Radio 1. In this program the former commander of the armed forces traveled to [World War I] military cemeteries in Flanders Fields in Belgium to find an answer to the question: should we be proud or grieve for young men who go to war?

In principle, we should be proud, Van Uhm says, at least if they are going to war because of pure idealism. In Syria, for example, against the oppressor Assad to end the suffering of women and children. …

Van Uhm’s condoning of people going to war in Syria is remarkable. His son, First Lieutenant Dennis van Uhm, in April 2008 at the age of 23 was killed in Afghanistan in an attack with an ‘Islamic’ roadside bomb. …

In the documentary, Van Uhm was confronted with the work of the German sculptress Käthe Kollwitz, whose son was killed in the First World War. Both the military father and artistic mother tried to make sense of the loss of their sons, but they drew different conclusions. Kollwitz wants ‘no more war’. Van Uhm continues to respect ‘young people who stick their necks out for a better world, while – if they are unlucky – they die.’

Kollwitz, Never Again War

If General Van Uhm disagrees with Käthe Kollwitz about World War I, then one may ask: does he think that war for German Emperor Wilhelm II, in which Ms Kollwitz’s son Peter died, was a worthy cause? Should the German empire have won World War I? On, on the contrary, were the German armed forces the bad guys, and their Allied opponents the good guys? Propagandists for present day militarism can’t have that both ways, though sometimes, they seem to try.

How many Dutch youngsters will interpret General Van Uhm’s words as an encouragement to depart to the bloody war in Syria? How many of them will die? How many will become disabled, physically, psychically, or both, for life? How many will get harsh governmental punishments for being ‘terrorists’? How many will really become terrorists after returning from hell in Syria?

LARGE numbers of people have been forced to flee the Iraqi city of Mosul after Islamist militants from the ISIS pro-Al Qaeda group effectively took control of parts of the city: here.

The fall of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), a group from which even Al Qaeda has broken because of its excessive violence and sectarian fanaticism, constitutes a searing indictment of the crimes carried out by US imperialism in Iraq and throughout the Middle East: here.

Käthe Kollwitz anti-war art New York exhibition


From the Huffington Post in the USA:

Käthe Kollwitz‘ Prints Heading To Brooklyn Museum For Rare Exhibition (PHOTOS)

Posted: 01/04/2013 10:35 am EST  |  Updated: 01/04/2013 11:49 am EST

As far as badass female artists go, they don’t get much better than Käthe Kollwitz. An upcoming exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum will present 13 rare prints from her “Krieg” (“War”) cycle.

During her career, the German artist (1867-1945) fluctuated between naturalism and expressionism in her empathetic depictions of humankind. Her visceral chronicle death, starvation, poverty and families torn apart by conflict. The emotional intensity of the works stems from Kollwitz’s personal experience with loss and depression, since her son Peter was killed in the opening days of World War One.

Kollwitz was initially unable to attend art school despite her budding talent because she was a woman, and persisted to become one of the most important German artists of the 20th century. In drawings, etchings and woodcut prints, the artist combines political pacifism and feminism in rough depictions that foreshadow contemporary street artists à la Swoon.

Käthe Kollwitz

Käthe Kollwitz (German, 1867–1945). The Mother (Die Mütter), 1922–23. Woodcut on heavy Japan paper, 18 13/16 x 25 9/16 in. (47.8 x 64.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Carl H. de Silver Fund, 44.201.6. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Käthe Kollwitz

Käthe Kollwitz (German, 1867–1945). The Widow I (Die Witwe I), 1922–23. Woodcut on heavy Japan paper, 26 x 18 11/16 in. (66 x 47.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Carl H. de Silver Fund, 44.201.4. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonnkollwitz brooklyn

Käthe Kollwitz (German, 1867–1945). Self Portrait (Selbstbildnis), 1927. Lithograph on thin China paper, 24 7/8 x 17 15/16 in. (63.2 x 45.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Collection Fund, 39.15. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst,Bonn

“Käthe Kollwitz: Prints from the ‘War’ and ‘Death’ Portfolios” will run from March 15 until September 15, 2013, at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. Kollwitz’s impact on the future of women in art remains relevant to this day, as evident in the feminist group the Guerilla Girls, whose founder dons Kollwitz’s name as a pseudonym.