World War One had a shocking and unsettling impact on Europe and many artists of the time attempted to address the effects of the war on their culture in paintings, prints, drawings and other visual media. Below are 10 artists who, though addressing different subjects and working in very different styles, all drew on the war for their art. For more information on the art of World War One see the Art of World War One in 52 Paintings.
1. Percy Wyndham Lewis
Percy Wyndham Lewis (18 November 1882 – 7 March 1957) was an English painter and leader of the Vorticist movement. After the first and only UK exhibition by the Vorticists in 1915, Lewis became involved in the war, attaining commission as a second lieutenant.
He spent much of his time at the front in forward observation posts, a particularly dangerous occupation. After the battle of Passchendaele in 1917 he was appointed as an official war artist. His war art was displayed in a 1918 exhibition, Guns.
He was also a prolific, if controversial, writer and in 1937 published Blasting and Bombardiering, an autobiography in which he described his experience of war.
2. Otto Dix
Wilhelm Heinrich Otto Dix (2 December 1891 – 25 July 1969) was a German printmaker and painter best known for his grotesque, satirical art and his depictions of the brutality of the First World War.
He served in the field artilery and was NCO of a machinegun unit on the Western Front for most of the war, including the battle of the Somme, although he also served on the Eastern Front.
He was troubled by his experiences of the war and suffered with recurrent nightmares. This preoccupation was expressed in a series of 50 etchings entitled Der Krieg (The War). He eventually shifted his focus to the problems of post-war German society and formed part of the Neue Sachlichkeit (new objectivity) movement
3. C.R.W. Nevinson
Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson (13 August 1889 – 7 October 1946) was one of Britain’s most well known and prolific war artists. His style changed radically in the course of his career as he broke away from the influence of Futurism and Voritcism and moved toward a realist style.
From November 1914 Nevinson worked in France as a medical orderly. However, suffering from rheumatism, he lost the physical strength needed to drive an ambulance, forcing him to return to England.
Back at home he continued to involve himself in the war effort where possible and in April 1917 he was appointed as an official war artist, a position he held for the rest of the war despite clashing with censors.
4. Paul Nash
Paul Nash (11 May 1889 – 11 July 1946) was a British painter best known for his artisitic representations of World War One and World War Two. Nash grew up in Buckinghamshire and the environment there encouraged him to become a landscape painter.
He enlisted on 10 September 1914 but was stationed on the home front. By 1916 he had undergone officer training and was sent to the Western Front. After three months he returned to Britain due to an injured rib. It was at this time he began his war painting, based on sketches he made while serving.
The work he produced while injured gained official attention and in November 1917 he returned to the front as an official war artist. His brother John was also a renowned war artist.
5. Eric Kennington
Eric Henri Kennington (12 March 1888 – 13 April 1960) was a painter, sculptor and illustrator who worked as an official war artist in both world wars. He was born in Chelsea in London and in 1914 joined the 13th (Kensington) Battalion London Regiment.
In June 1915 he was discharged from active service following an injury. He attracted attention from critics and the government for art he produced while recuperating. By 1917 he had been commissioned as an official war artist.
6. Norah Nielson-Gray
Norah Neilson Gray (16 June 1882 – 27 May 1931) was a Scottish artist who attended the Glasgow School of Art until 1906. During World War One, Nielson-Gray volunteered as a nurse with the Scottish Women’s Hospitals and went to France.
Nielson-Gray drew on her experiences in the hospitals in France for her artwork. In 1920 her painting The Scottish Women’s Hospital In The Cloister of the Abbaye at Royaumont. Dr Frances Ivens inspecting a French patient was accepted into the Imperial War Museum’s collection.
7. Stanley Spencer
Sir Stanley Spencer (30 June 1891 – 14 December 1959) was an British painter intially well known for his paintings depicting biblical scenes taking place in Cookham, the village where he spent much of his life.
Spencer volunteered with the Royal Army Medical Corps in World War One and spent two and a half years on the front line in Macedonia, eventually leaving due to debilitating malaria.
Unlike many war artists on this list, the war made painting more difficult for Spencer and he remarked that ‘It is not proper or sensible to expect to paint after such experience.’
8. Albin Egger-Lienz
Albin Egger-Lienz (29 January 1868 – 4 November 1926) was an Austrian painter from the mountainous Tyrol region. Influenced by French Realist Jean-François Millet he favoured rustic scenes. World War One had a strong impact on his work and he was a war artist throughout the conflict.
After the war he declined a prestigious professorship in Vienna in order to move back the Tyrolean countryside where he had grown up.
9. Muirhead Bone
Sir Muirhead Bone (23 March 1876 – 21 October 1953) was a Scottish artist who worked in a variety of media, but is perhaps best known for his etchings. He was a war artist in the First and Second World Wars. In May 1916 Bone was appointed as Britain’s first official war artist .
He had advocated for the creation of the post of Official War Artist passionately from the outset and by June 1916 he was in France with an honorary military rank and a salary.
Muirhead Bone began his career as an architect and his detailed, precise and realistic style reflects this training. He was a prolific artist, creating 150 drawings between August and October of 1916 alone.
10. Henry de Groux
Henry de Groux (15 September 1866 – 12 January 1930) was a Belgian painter and printmaker. He was the son of noted engraver Charles de Groux and trained at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts as his father had done before him.
He was part of the symbolist movment of the later 19th century and often dealt with religious subjects, but after 1914 turned his attentions to the horrors of war as well. He was also a prolific diarist and friend of French writer Emile Zola.