14 thoughts on “Paul Nash, painting against World War I

  1. War Horse—All heart and no head
    By Kevin Martinez
    23 January 2012

    Directed by Steven Spielberg; based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo.

    War Horse

    In the First World War, Britain lost approximately 887,000 men, nearly 2 percent of the population as a whole. For every eight soldiers who went to the front, one would not return home. Entire villages were decimated by the war and it was not uncommon for a family to lose all its sons. To this day, World War I remains Britain’s costliest conflict, despite the country’s entry into World War II and other colonial wars of the 20th century.

    Given the enormous carnage of the war, which was unprecedented to this point in world history, the notion of a “Pax Britannica” was dealt a blow from which it has never recovered. Millions of people in Britain and internationally began to see the old order—of kings and queens, the church, the military—as irrational and unjust, something to be swept away by means of revolution.

    Any serious artistic treatment of World War I has to take this basic truth into consideration. An artwork that merely uses imperialist war as a backdrop and accepts such a state of affairs as a given, and something that will not change, cannot offer any real insight or provide dramatic lessons to its audience.

    Such is the case with director Steven Spielberg’s latest film, War Horse. The story concerns a farmer and his family who reside in Devon, England before the start of the war. Ted Narracott (Peter Mullan) purchases a young thoroughbred horse for the purposes of plowsharing on his modest farm. His wife Rose (Emily Watson) does not approve, noting the horse’s small size. The purchase is intended, in part, to spite Lyons (David Thewlis) the landlord of the farm, who earlier tried to outbid Ted for the horse.



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