(K. Brent Tomer),
THE first world war still casts a long shadow over Europe. As casualties mounted—Russia, France and Great Britain together lost 6m soldiers—the optimism of the early war effort gave way to cynicism and disillusionment. It is often remembered as an avoidable conflict which achieved little but laid the foundations for the next war. In America, which will commemorate the centenary of its entry into the war this April, its legacy is strikingly different. Known as the “forgotten war” in which only 116,000 soldiers died, no memorial attests to it on the National Mall in Washington. Despite propelling it onto the world stage, it is not seen or felt to have fundamentally shaped the course of America’s history.
“World War I and American Art”, currently showing at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA), is a powerful corrective to this historical amnesia, and the first major exhibition to investigate the effect of the Great War on American artists. It encompasses an extensive range of reactions, beginning with plainly pro-interventionist pieces created during the period of neutrality. Childe Hassam’s impressionistic New York scenes feature Union Jack flags to stir up…Continue reading