Grand Illusions: American Art and the First World War

Grand Illusions: American Art and the First World War 1052 The Journal of American History March 2018 Grand Illusions:  American Art and the First Lubin carefully charts the rise of a modern - World War. By David M. Lubin. (New York: ist sensibility in response to the European war Oxford University Press, 2016. xiv, 366 pp. across an impressive range of media—but he $39.95.) also tells a less palatable story in which the war appears, not as an aberration from the norms Ten soldiers in a line stumble across th-e can of civilization but as an intensification of the vas, led by an alert and attentive orderly. Each violence and racial tension that pervade - Amer man holds the shoulder of the man in front. ican society. Much of this book is devoted to Their eyes are bandaged. The third soldier paintings, photographs, or films that have, at in the line raises his foot to take a step, the first glance, no connection with war but that height of which he cannot guess. All around are deftly linked to this underlying aggression. lie dozens more men in uniform—waiting, Grand Illusions is a powerful and engaging sleeping, dying. John Singer Sargent’s po - wer book, at its strongest when reading the photo - ful 1919 painting Gassed, inspired by the sight graphs of the era—which is apt, given the new of blinded soldiers near Arras in 1918, is “onstatus that photography gained during the war e of the few truly unforgettable images of the as both a military and a political weapon. The First World War” (p. 151). As Sargent reminds book also makes readers reevaluate how con - us, seeing matters. flict is hardwired, not just into history, but also However, as David M. Lubin demonstrates into our assumptions about art and how we in Grand Illusions Americans saw World War see it. I in many ways. Whether in gaudy gov-ern Hazel Hutchison ment posters, sculpture, photography, or in University of Aberdeen the strange new art of plastic surgery, the war Aberdeen, Scotland penetrated every imaginable visual medium. doi: 10.1093/jahist/jax504 As the impact of the war was felt across the na - tion, in the homes of the 4 million men who served, in the German American communities Beyond 1917: The United States and the Glob - torn apart by distrust, or in the economic pr - os al Legacies of the Great War. Ed. by Thomas perity brought by the munitions trade, so the W. Zeiler, David K. Ekbladh, and Benjamin war also fundamentally reshaped America - ’s re C. Montoya. (New York: Oxford University lationship with visual experience. Press, 2017. xvi, 336 pp. Cloth, $99.00. Paper, On one level, Lubin relates a familiar nar - $29.95.) rative about how the horrors of trench warfare, and the ironies of economic greed and military This stimulating volume, an outgrowth of a incompetence, shattered traditional modes of conference at Williams College in 2014 -, pre expression and jolted experimental and disr - up sents fifteen short essays on a wide array of tive methods to the fore. The classical elegance topics, ranging from the changes in American of Sargent’s style gives way to the flat, brutal popular views of the European belligerents poignancy of Claggett Wilson’s watercolors; between 1914 and 1917 to the long-term l - ega the patriotic symbolism of Howard Chandler cies of World War I in Europe and the Middle Christy’s recruiting posters is replaced by the East. monochrome contrasts of Edward Steichen’s Essays by Andrew Preston, Emily S. Rosen - aerial photography. Lubin also gives a com - berg, and Robert Gerwarth and Erez Manela pelling reading of Marcel Duchamp Foun ’s - are among the most impressive of the contribu - tain (1917), the infamous urinal signed by “R. tions. In a concise discussion of American r - eli Mutt” as an antiwar protest. Photographed in gion and the war, Preston reveals the contrast - 1917 by the German sympathiser Alfred S-tieg ing ways different religious groups (including litz, with Marsden Hartley’s 1913 painting of liberal Protestants, conservative fundamental - the Prussian cavalr The W y, arriors, as a back - ists, Jews, and Roman Catholics) interpreted drop, Duchamp’s “ready-made” sculpture had, and responded to the war, with long-lasting it seems, plenty to say about the conflict. implications for ethnic assimilation, cultural Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/jah/article-abstract/104/4/1052/4932681 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Journal of American History Oxford University Press

Grand Illusions: American Art and the First World War

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© The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Organization of American Historians. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.
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0021-8723
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10.1093/jahist/jax504
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Abstract

1052 The Journal of American History March 2018 Grand Illusions:  American Art and the First Lubin carefully charts the rise of a modern - World War. By David M. Lubin. (New York: ist sensibility in response to the European war Oxford University Press, 2016. xiv, 366 pp. across an impressive range of media—but he $39.95.) also tells a less palatable story in which the war appears, not as an aberration from the norms Ten soldiers in a line stumble across th-e can of civilization but as an intensification of the vas, led by an alert and attentive orderly. Each violence and racial tension that pervade - Amer man holds the shoulder of the man in front. ican society. Much of this book is devoted to Their eyes are bandaged. The third soldier paintings, photographs, or films that have, at in the line raises his foot to take a step, the first glance, no connection with war but that height of which he cannot guess. All around are deftly linked to this underlying aggression. lie dozens more men in uniform—waiting, Grand Illusions is a powerful and engaging sleeping, dying. John Singer Sargent’s po - wer book, at its strongest when reading the photo - ful 1919 painting Gassed, inspired by the sight graphs of the era—which is apt, given the new of blinded soldiers near Arras in 1918, is “onstatus that photography gained during the war e of the few truly unforgettable images of the as both a military and a political weapon. The First World War” (p. 151). As Sargent reminds book also makes readers reevaluate how con - us, seeing matters. flict is hardwired, not just into history, but also However, as David M. Lubin demonstrates into our assumptions about art and how we in Grand Illusions Americans saw World War see it. I in many ways. Whether in gaudy gov-ern Hazel Hutchison ment posters, sculpture, photography, or in University of Aberdeen the strange new art of plastic surgery, the war Aberdeen, Scotland penetrated every imaginable visual medium. doi: 10.1093/jahist/jax504 As the impact of the war was felt across the na - tion, in the homes of the 4 million men who served, in the German American communities Beyond 1917: The United States and the Glob - torn apart by distrust, or in the economic pr - os al Legacies of the Great War. Ed. by Thomas perity brought by the munitions trade, so the W. Zeiler, David K. Ekbladh, and Benjamin war also fundamentally reshaped America - ’s re C. Montoya. (New York: Oxford University lationship with visual experience. Press, 2017. xvi, 336 pp. Cloth, $99.00. Paper, On one level, Lubin relates a familiar nar - $29.95.) rative about how the horrors of trench warfare, and the ironies of economic greed and military This stimulating volume, an outgrowth of a incompetence, shattered traditional modes of conference at Williams College in 2014 -, pre expression and jolted experimental and disr - up sents fifteen short essays on a wide array of tive methods to the fore. The classical elegance topics, ranging from the changes in American of Sargent’s style gives way to the flat, brutal popular views of the European belligerents poignancy of Claggett Wilson’s watercolors; between 1914 and 1917 to the long-term l - ega the patriotic symbolism of Howard Chandler cies of World War I in Europe and the Middle Christy’s recruiting posters is replaced by the East. monochrome contrasts of Edward Steichen’s Essays by Andrew Preston, Emily S. Rosen - aerial photography. Lubin also gives a com - berg, and Robert Gerwarth and Erez Manela pelling reading of Marcel Duchamp Foun ’s - are among the most impressive of the contribu - tain (1917), the infamous urinal signed by “R. tions. In a concise discussion of American r - eli Mutt” as an antiwar protest. Photographed in gion and the war, Preston reveals the contrast - 1917 by the German sympathiser Alfred S-tieg ing ways different religious groups (including litz, with Marsden Hartley’s 1913 painting of liberal Protestants, conservative fundamental - the Prussian cavalr The W y, arriors, as a back - ists, Jews, and Roman Catholics) interpreted drop, Duchamp’s “ready-made” sculpture had, and responded to the war, with long-lasting it seems, plenty to say about the conflict. implications for ethnic assimilation, cultural Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/jah/article-abstract/104/4/1052/4932681 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018

Journal

The Journal of American HistoryOxford University Press

Published: Mar 1, 2018

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