The Early Modern Age is one of the artistic ages I am a bit more familiar with; not in that I knew of any artists beforehand, but I have seen art from this era. World War One was a huge influence on the artistic world, not just through the influence in style but artists themselves were put to use in the war. Battleships were painted in an odd way to confuse enemies and war posters were popular. Not all artists supported the war, however. As I myself am a pacifist, I’ll start with:
We Are Making A New World
Paul Nash 1918, location unknown
Paul Nash was a British painter who was enlisted in World War One. After falling into a trench and breaking a rib he was sent away from the battles and during his recuperation he made a series of drawings that showed the front lines of war. He was advised he should pursue this talent and after speaking with Charles Masterman, the head of war propaganda in Britain, he was compelled to become a war artist. His paintings were dripping with anti-war influences, We Are Making A New World depicts a battlefield after the fighting ceased. The name of this painting is meant to mock proponents of the war, showing a new world is being created but not the one most want. The ground is destroyed and warped by bombs and fighting and all the trees are dead, leaves having fallen or burned long ago. The warped ground is similar in shape to tombstones, but covered by vegetation. Shining above all is the sun, offering a small beam of home in the shattered world. The land in the foreground is lit and the background is still dark, symbolizing the time it will take to heal wounds of the war in people’s hearts. As described by Roger Tolson, “This new world is unwanted, unlovable, but inescapable.”(1)
Edward Wadsworth was a painter during World War One. Not only was he an artist, he was in charge of over 2000 ship paintings. The ships were painted to give their movements camouflage, not the ships themselves. This method of painting, called “dazzle painting”, masked the appearance of the ships in such a way their movements were hard to predict. Describing the style does not do it justice.
Dazzle-Ships in Drydock at Liverpool
Edward Wadsworth 1919, location unknown
The British were losing many submarines a day and desired a way to counter the German submarines. The Wadsworth painted many paintings such as this after the war, the style is unnatural and bends the eye around the ship when the lines are followed. The idea with the paint was to make the dimensions, speed, type, and bearing of the ship hard to determine through a periscope.(2)
The Navy put ’em across The service for travel and training, ages 17 to 35
Henry Reuterdahl 1918, Location unknown
Henry Reuterdahl was a Swiss artist who came to America in the early 1900’s. After being amazed by the warships in America, he decided to put his artistic talents to use and made war posters for the United States. This particular one I found funny; war posters these days are often pictures of battleships and planes. While the Navy was used to transport soldiers to battle (no commercial jets quite yet), they were also instrumental in the war against the Germans u-boats. Reuterdahl did not intend to insult the Army, he was merely poking fun at the idea.