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11-08-2015, 17:22


Changes in the world of the intellect are harder to measure. The sense of doom, of being wounded, of living in a diminished, irrational, and dangerous world penetrated the circles of Europe's artists and writers. As Raymond Sontag put it, 'Among intellectuals and artists in France and throughout western Europe, no less than in defeated Germany and in the fragments of the Austrian empire, there was recognition that the Europe of earlier centuries was broken, possibly beyond repair." ' Artistic movements like the dadaists and surrealists pointed to the meaninglessness of the world around them and the need to flout old social conventions. Memoirs and novels such as Robert Graves's Goodbye to All That (1929) and Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front (1929) pointed to the senseless horror of the war and the equally senseless sacrifices the young men of Europe had made. The American writer Ernest Hemingway presented his recollections of the war on the Italian front with equal bitterness in A Farewell to Arms, also published in 1929. Numerous European and American artists and writers echoed those themes. But the lasting impact of the war on the world of intellectuals and artists is elusive. Figures like Hemingway and the French writer-adventurer Andre Malraux, for example, committed themselves to the new political challenge of fighting fascism, first in the Spanish Civil War, then in World War II. Sometimes, as in the case of Malraux, communism for a time provided a political compass for renewed and meaningful activity. The participation of writers like J. B. Priestley—for many Britons the voice of their country along with Winston Churchill between 1940 and 1945—in the great effort of World War II shows the lessened alienation as the distance from 1918 grew. In the visual arts, the war had a traumatic and lasting effect on German artists like Kathe KoUwitz and Otto Dix. Already a critic of social injustice in her work before 1914, Kollwitz became a committed pacifist in response to the carnage that cost the life of her younger son Peter in Belgium in 1914. She expressed her ongoing grief in a sculptured memorial entided The Parents, placed at the cemetery in Roggevelde, Belgium, in 1932. Dix, who served for four years on both the eastern and western fronts, made the war and its human cost a central motif of his painting for decades after the Armistice. The burden the war placed on him, visible in Self Portrait as Mars (1915) and Star Shells (1917), was still in evidence in paintings like Trench Warfare in 1932. But the revolutionary developments in modem art—such as expressionism and cubism—had appeared before the war, and giants of the art world such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse had already done their most imaginative work. Thus, historians of art such as Hugh Honour and John Fleming see the war as an event "cutting short a great outburst of creative genius in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries." Matisse abandoned the forceful painting of his prewar work for a more refined style, while Picasso threw his talents into a variety of different styles. The war had been a cultural calamity, and "western civilization has never recovered from it." 13 Thus, the war may have stifled the great artistic innovations in prospect; certainly, it redirected artistic energy and vision.