Tuesday, March 3, 2015

World War I at the Getty

The Getty Center in Brentwood, Calif., is mounting a reflective exhibit of World War I art and propaganda as the world marks the war's 100th anniversary.  Below is one item on display.

"I Have You My Captain. You Won't Fall.", Paul Iribe, 1917
"I Have You My Captain. You Won't Fall."
Paul Iribe (French, 1883–1935)
Color lithograph
À coups de baïonnette 9 (June 1917): pp. 424–25
The note alongside the lithograph reads as follows:

        A French soldier cradles his wounded captain, as a blast behind their heads becomes a
        halo. Surrounded by explosions in a chaos of splintering structures, we see a poignant
        image of suffering—a wartime Pietà.

There is much propaganda in the Getty show, all of it showing the other side as savage and inhuman.  These themes were revisited 30 years later, in the Second World War.  My impression is that crude exaggerations have been less a part of Western countries' propaganda for the more complicated wars that followed.  I may be naive and wrong, however.

At the beginning of World War I, artists and poets depicted it as a noble, nationalist enterprise.  As the carnage mounted and soldiers questioned the point of the suffering, the themes became grief, horror and deep sorrow.

You can find a good online display and discussion of 15 of the works, as well as more information, at www.getty.edu/WWI/tour.

Worth a look.


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