1914 – 1918 : War of Images – Images of war

From the 28th september 2016 to the 8th january 2017

A co-production by :
Musée Würth France Erstein
The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles
Les Musées de la Ville de Strasbourg

The exhibition, originally entitled World War One: War of Images – Images of War, was designed and produced by The Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles and first shownin Los Angeles (California) and subsequently at the Kemper Art Museum in Saint Louis (Missouri).

Musée Würth is the European and French leg of the exhibition and presents an overview of the iconography of propaganda that flourished between the belligerents during the First World War and a selection of artists’ testimonies.

The project presented in Erstein has been expanded by a regional section produced by Musées de la Ville de Strasbourg: The Other War. Satire and Propaganda in German Illustration.

La Tranchée
Swiss (1865-1925)
C’est la guerre ! (1915-1916) : pl. 1
The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles
Donation of Dr. & Mrs. Richard A. Simms

The first large-scale conflict of the 20th century set the stage for experiments in modern methods of destruction. As a result, the final toll of the First World War amounted to 20 million dead, 21 million wounded, and incalculable damage on the battlefields and in the cities of Europe. The collapse of three empires quite simply redrew the map of Europe and of the world.

Harry R. HOPPS
Destroy this Mad Brute – Enlist
USA (1869-1937)
Color lithograph
Ca. 1917
Louis and Jodi Atkin Family Collection
Modern Graphic History Library, Department of Special Collection
Washington University Libraries

An entire generation of artists was directly affected by this war, as was modern culture of the period in its entirety. The final objective of the belligerents was to establish who was going to dominate Europe – politically, economically and culturally – in the 20th century. If, in the decades leading up to the First World War, modern art was an international phenomenon, with artists, works and ideas freely crossing borders, the conflict brought a radical end to this intense artistic exchange, since the front lines not only partitioned nations, but also cultures.

Gedrängte Frühjahrsübersicht von Europa im Jahre 1915 /
Chamboulement du panorama de l’Europe au printemps 1915
Musée historique, Strasbourg

This exhibition sets out to explore the First World War from a twofold perspective: the use of propaganda in the conflict and its description by the artists who found themselves on the front lines.
For the belligerent, propaganda has always been a way of circulating the image of itself as a culturally superior nation confronted by a barbaric and backward enemy. For the first time, that propaganda took on a new dimension through popular newspapers and other graphic media, depicting the enemy not only as a military threat, but also as a threat to the very future of European civilisation. Two realities thus lived side by side: on one side, the soldier serving at the front, on the other, a reality manipulated by propaganda, the idealism of which could but very quickly lead to disenchantment, and the war of images ended up in savage collision with the images of war.

The exhibition 1914 – 1918: War of Images – Images of War has been awarded the Label Centenaire.