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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

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The Arts and World War I

Evening Program

Monday, June 8, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.
Code: 1H0513

"Seated Youth", ca. 1917, by W. Lehmbruck (National Gallery of Art)

The awesome power of war to unleash death and destruction has often ironically led to remarkable creative breakthroughs from artists, poets, and composers. The First World War, with its lethal modern weapons, claimed millions of lives on the battlefield and traumatized a generation who had experienced it both in and out of uniform.

The arts of the period present a portrait of the terrible price paid by humanity. The carnage and suffering caused by the war were documented in paintings, sculptures, novels, memoirs, and poems produced both during, and immediately after, the struggle.

David Gariff, a senior lecturer at the National Gallery of Art, explores the responses of artists and writers to the trauma of the Great War, which transcended national boundaries. Paintings, sculptures, and prints by Otto Dix, Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Käthe Kollwitz, Fernand Léger, John Singer Sargent, and Natalija Goncharova; poems by Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, and Anna Akhmatova; and memoirs and novels by Ernest Hemingway, Erich Maria Remarque, and Robert Graves are discussed against the backdrop of the war to end all wars.