The First World War was an event of unimaginable violence and horror that killed or wounded 40 million people. This talk explores how visual artists used their work both to record the war and to try to come to terms with its trauma.
Canada and the United Kingdom both had groundbreaking and extremely productive official war art projects during the First World War. Those projects resulted in large numbers of war-themed oil paintings, watercolours, drawings, prints and sculptures by the most prominent Canadian and British artists of the day, including A.Y. Jackson, David Milne, Fred Varley, Paul Nash and C.R.W. Nevinson. Many of the resulting artworks rank among the most important and accomplished examples of Canadian and British art from the early twentieth century.
In an age of cameras and newsreels, why was so much money spent on war art in the first place? What did the public expect war art to show? What practical factors determined what the artists were able to record? How did personal factors affect their attitudes to dealing with the speed, danger and horror of modern mechanized warfare?
Dr Brian Foss is Director of the School for Studies in Art and Culture at Carleton University. A historian of Canadian art of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Brian has contributed to exhibitions and publications about Homer Watson, Molly Lamb Bobak, Mary Hiester Reid, Miller Brittain, and Edwin Holgate. In 2015, with Jacques Des Rochers of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Brian organized the exhibition 1920s Modernism in Montreal: The Beaver Hall Group, which won the 2016 Award of Outstanding Achievement for an Art Exhibition from the Canadian Museums Association, and co-authored the accompanying award-winning catalogue. Brian has a longstanding interest in the relationship between art and war, and is the author of War Paint: Art, War, State and Identity in Britain 1939-45 (Yale University Press, 2007).
Admission free. Refreshments follow each lecture.