Write an essay based on "4.07 Art and War" 2 pages, double spaced, APA format. Your essay should have at least 2 references. Put in your own words and credit the source from which it came from.
Figure 1 The First Victoria Cross of the European War, 1914. Captain Francis Grenfell, 9th Lancers at Audregnies, 24 August 1914 by Richard Caton Woodville
Artists depict wars in a wide variety of artistic forms, including photographs, sculptures, paintings, models, videos and so on. They would directly convey through artworks their own thinking and feelings about wars, thus it is hard for viewers to decide if their artworks are biased. Besides, the artworks are in a position to display the complete process of wars from the perspective of visual art. Although it has been widely disputed by dedicated historians whether artworks are created biased or unbiased by artists, artworks, to a large extent, are still meaningful as a source of record and study of historical events. This essay aims to explore a specific example of artistic propaganda that seemed to conflict with the history of wars in World War I. That is to say, an artwork can serve as a distortion of the history. In recent years, there are an increasing number of historians criticizing that the histories of World War I have been distorted in some aspects. Many historians averted that such evidences could be found in major publications that have had significant influence on the public during World War I. For example, The Illustrated London News, regarded as one of the major sources of distorted history. According to Stephen Badsey (2014), there are some discrepancies between contemporary historical research and popular history. Taking a painting from an artistic propaganda of World War I as an example, Figure 1 was painted by Richard Caton Woodville who was an American artist who came to Europe to pursue his career path. This picture entitled “The First Victoria Cross of the European War, 1914. Captain Francis Grenfell, 9th Lancers at Audregnies, 24 August 1914”, which depicts the history of Captain Francis Grenfell led the Queen’s Royal 9th Lancers in the battle to fight against the German army at Audregnies, on 24 August 1914 during the Battle of Mons. Later in the day Captain Francis Grenfell and his men risked their lives to take away British guns. Richard Caton Woodville seems to have combined the two events in his painting. From the perspective of art, this painting successfully demonstrated great bravery of 9th Lancers, the heroism of Captain Francis Grenfell, and suffering of soldiers. It also put emphasize on the significance of the first victory in World War I, and was used for propaganda to suggest the British military strength under the reign of George V. However, the true history is that on 24 August 1914 Captain Francis Grenfell was on a charge at the German line of infantry and artillery, and the consequence of the war was a failure. As a matter of fact, the first victory to be won in World War I was by Lieutenant M. J. Dease. Grenfell was killed in action the following year, while Captain Francis Grenfell was the first highly praised on the publications. He was formally listed in “The London Gazette”, the first journal in English history, as a recipient. Generally speaking, dissemination of war propaganda plays an important role in time of war. Bernays (1942) suggested that the governments came to realize it was indispensable to unify the attitudes and movements of the whole nation. The reason is the governments considered ideas to be more powerful weapons than arms and armaments. As a result, war propagandas with artistic visual art were in use as scientific approach to the dissemination of national aims and policies. It is understandable that artistic propagandas can be manipulated to persuade the viewer toward a certain interpretation of an event. Therefore, viewers should be skeptical when appreciating war artworks and do more research on other materials to make sure the artworks are not biased.
Richard C. W., “The First Victoria Cross of the European War, 1914. Captain Francis Grenfell, 9th Lancers at Audregnies, 24 August 1914”. Accessed on 9 Dec. 2015.
Badsey, S., & Badsey, S. (2014). The british army in battle and its image 1914-18. War in History, 17(4), 537-538.
Bernays, E. L. (1942). The marketing of national policies: a study of war propaganda. Journal of Marketing, 6(3), 236-244.