History of Modern France

The Third French Republic 1870-1940. Part 6

5 October 2021

Felix Valloton, The lookout

From the series C'est la guerre, 1916 (detail)


Art in a Time of War:

"The Painters of Chaos"  Depicting the Horror of the Great War 1914-1918

With Anne Catherine Abecassis

The Great War profoundly changed the way artists looked at war, gradually abandoning exaltation and heroism for a denunciation of violence and barbarism. How were artists to represent a war of an entirely new kind, which did not in any way resemble the battles of the past? The Great war was the first industrial conflict of the modern era, in which technological innovations led to the obliteration of men by machines.


During the war, Georges Braque experimented with Cubist camouflage and André Derain, replaced painting with photography, as a more direct witness to history. Fernand Léger was present at Verdun, Félix Vallotton, Georges Leroux and Otto Dix, whether they were mobilized or not, were all impacted by the culture of war.


Our talk will focus on how different categories of artists distinguished themselves during the conflict, those who denounced the new barbarism, those who acted as witnesses and those whose reaction was also political.

Fernad Léger, Soldiers playing cards, 1917

Otterlo, Netherlands, Kröller-Müller Museum (detail)

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