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[Detail] A French officer and his British ally at the front read the New York Times.

Depicting War and Its Effects in Art

The Great War and its effects were not only depicted in photographs but in paintings by leading artists of the time as well as by young artists who served in the military during the war. Select several paintings depicting scenes of war and the effects of war by leading artists such as John Singer Sargent (Gassed and A Street in Arras), Paul Nash (Void and The Menin Road), John Nash (Over the Top), Otto Dix (Assault Under Gas), or C. R. W. Nevinson (Paths of Glory and The Harvest of Battle). These paintings and many more are available at Art of the First World War.

  • How did artists portray the war? Did artists on opposing sides depict the war similarly or differently?
  • What messages did artists convey in their paintings and watercolors?
  • Search the collection for rotogravures that represent scenes similar to those illustrated in paintings and watercolors by World War I artists. Compare several paintings to rotogravures in the collection. To what extent did artists convey an authentic portrait of the war and its consequences? How do you, as a viewer, respond differently to the paintings and photographs? Why or why not?

View the painting The Consoler by English artist Harold Copping.

  • What emotion did the artist invoke in this painting?
  • How does Copping’s painting contrast with those by such artists as Sargent, Nash, or Dix?