World War I Examined Through Paintings, Sculptures, Photographs at Nelson Atkins
Kansas City, MO. Dec.16, 2014
Exhibition Coincides with Centennial Celebration
World War I, also called The Great War, was the first total war of the modern period. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the long and bloody conflict that began during the summer of 1914, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City gathered paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs and decorative arts by many of the most esteemed European and American modernists. World War I and the Rise of Modernism opens on December 17 and runs through July 19, 2015, walking visitors through the time period before, during and after The Great War.
“Both Europe and the larger Western culture it represented were dramatically altered during World War I,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell CEO & Director of the Nelson-Atkins. “This exhibition reveals the major shift in perspective brought on by The Great War, as well as the disillusionment of an entire society.”
Modernism, an international art movement, was well underway when World War I erupted, and it continued to evolve after the conclusion of the war. There are 59 works of art in World War I and the Rise of Modernism. Among the artists represented are Wassily (Vasily) Kandinsky (Russia), Mies van der Rohe and Emil Nolde (Germany), Egon Schiele (Austria), Georges Braque and Yves Tanguy (France), Giorgio de Chirico and Umberto Boccioni (Italy), Marsden Hartley and Alfred Stieglitz (United States).
“All great art has the power to move us intellectually, emotionally and spiritually,” said Jan Schall, Sanders Sosland Curator of Modern Art. “The pure, vibrant colors of Wassily (Vasily) Kandinsky’s Sketch for ‘Composition II’, an extraordinary pre-war painting on loan from New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, express the spiritual transformation he envisioned for the modern world. In contrast, the raw, angular bursts of red and green in André Masson’s post-war painting, The Little Tragedy, evoke the violence of conflict, while Kaethe Kollwitz’s Self-Portrait reveals the artist’s grief in response to the battlefield death of her son, Peter.”
German Expressionism, French Cubism and Italian Futurism were the three dominant Modernist styles of pre-war art. As art movements, they continued to advance after the war ended. But all were impacted by the devastation. Expressionist artist Franz Marc and Futurist artist Umberto Boccioni fought for Germany and Italy, respectively. Both died in combat.
After the war, Mies van der Rohe and Margarete Heymann-Loebenstein, working at the now-famous German Bauhaus (House of Construction), devoted themselves to the idea and process of building a new world of art, design, and architecture, governed by rational efficiency and economy. On the other hand, the French Surrealists, influenced by Freudian psychology, explored the realm of dreams and imagination, as they sought to understand the irrational forces that guide human thought and action.
“We are fortunate to be able to tell this dramatic story of pre-, during-, and post-war Modernism by uniting works from the museum’s own collection with generous loans from the Guggenheim Museum, the National World War I Museum, and private collections,” said Schall.
A timeline on one of the exhibition walls depicts highlights of the era, detailing the socio-political and art events happening at certain points before, during and after WWI.
There are two History and Art Exchange Talks, one at the Nelson-Atkins and the other at the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial. The institutions partnered to explore the connections between war and creativity.
At the Nelson-Atkins:
WWI in Perspective
Thursday, January 8, 6 p.m. in Atkins Auditorium. Join noted historian Michael Neiberg, professor of history in the department of national security and strategy at the United States Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, as he discusses the historic impact of the world’s first global conflict.
At the WWI Museum:
DADA: A World Turned Upside Down
Thursday, January 22, at 6 p.m. Join Jan Schall, Sanders Sosland Curator of Modern Art at the Nelson-Atkins, for a look at DADA, the art movement that mocked and mourned the insanity of a world at war.
Free admission provided courtesy of the WWIKC partnership.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
The Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City is recognized nationally and internationally as one of America’s finest art museums. The Nelson-Atkins serves the community by providing access and insight into its renowned collection of more than 33,500 art objects and is best known for its Asian art, European and American paintings, photography, modern sculpture, and new American Indian and Egyptian galleries. Housing a major art research library and the Ford Learning Center, the Museum is a key educational resource for the region. The institution-wide transformation of the Nelson-Atkins has included the 165,000-square-foot Bloch Building expansion and renovation of the original 1933 Nelson-Atkins Building.
The Nelson-Atkins is located at 45th and Oak Streets, Kansas City, MO. Hours are Wednesday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Thursday/Friday, 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Admission to the museum is free to everyone. For museum information, phone 816.751.1ART (1278) or visit nelson-atkins.org/.