Monday, December 8, 2014

World War I art is not common. Or, at least, it's not commonly known or appreciated by Americans. For the United States, the war was a great victory. For Europe, it remains an open wound.

European intellectuals honestly believed that war was going away in 1914. They honestly believed that interlocking economics, advances in the devastating technology of war-making, diplomacy, and the general advance in culture and ethics had made war unthinkable.

And yet war happened.

To Europeans of all classes, progress seemed inevitable in 1914. Europe had shrugged off the cluthces of the Roman Catholic Church and its Inquisition, it's condemned books, it's corrupt morality. Europe had struggled and won the battle to create a lasting progressive social welfare system. Europe had begun to innovate, capital was on the move, the excesses of the industrial revolution were being corrected.

The war destroyed all belief in progress. Now everything seemed chaotic, random. There was no morality, just chance. Alienation was everywhe.

World War I art can be haunting. This is On the Road to Sedan, a November 1915 watercolor on paper by Frank Elim, a soldier who fought in the Great War.

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