Topic suggestions for a short paper about war and its impact on art?
November 3, 2008 5:40 AM   Subscribe

I am writing a short paper on a connection between art and war. Anyone have any interesting topic suggestions/articles/websites? I'd like to go beyond the obvious like Maus, and find other things to consider writing about, like these cartoons written by a Japanese soldier. My teacher has encouraged us to think about lost art in Iraq and Afghanistan, but is open to any reasonable topic from any era.
posted by Jennifer S. to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Your idea looks great, and its off the beaten path. If you need other examples to look through though you could check out Willie and Joe by Bill Mauldin. WW II era comic.
posted by wavering at 5:46 AM on November 3, 2008

First thing that comes to mind is Charlie and his Orchestra. From the link:

Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister, assembled a fairly competent swing band called Charlie and His Orchestra to perform Nazified versions of the jazz hits of the day.
posted by micayetoca at 5:46 AM on November 3, 2008

If you're willing to go beyond comics, you might consider the reputed father of photojournalism, Mathew Brady, renowned photographer of the American Civil War. His are some of the very first photographs of actual war casualties, previous depictions having been limited to paintings and etchings.

This moves from the realm of "mere" reporting into a more creative realm because many of Brady's photographs were actually staged. The corpses are all real, but they were frequently shifted about for greater dramatic effect.
posted by valkyryn at 5:52 AM on November 3, 2008

You could check out this list of famous war artists.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:56 AM on November 3, 2008

Best answer: Tooting my own horn here, but I put together an fpp about how the US Army had, basically, an Artists Corps, which was responsible for faking out German spies by making them think that there were U.S. tanks and troops where there weren't any. Artists included Bill Blass, Ellsworth Kelly, and more. In this case, art(ists) served war, and didn't (solely) record it or memorialize the experiences of the participants.
posted by rtha at 6:06 AM on November 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

Well, I read an interesting blog about the artist Vann Nath, from the Penetrating Insights blog:

Vann Nath, 63, born in Battambang, Cambodia, is one of seven survivors -- and three still alive today -- of the Khmer Rouge's secret prison known as S-21, where 14,000 men, women and children were interrogated, tortured and executed during the 1975-79 Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. He is one of Cambodia's most prominent artists, and it was this skill that kept him alive at S-21. His life was spared by his jailors so that he could be put to work painting and sculpting portraits of Pol Pot.

Which I got to by reading an earlier post about Art Therapy on the same blog. An interesting intersection of art and healing after war.

Some photos on that blog may be NSFW.
posted by saucysault at 6:09 AM on November 3, 2008

There must be lots to explore here regarding the Spanish Civil War.
posted by mooreeasyvibe at 6:20 AM on November 3, 2008

FYI Matthew Brady has been known to move bodies and other elements so as to better compose his photographs, so was it art or photojournalism?

Disney and Warner Brothers were recruited during WWII to make animated propaganda and training films as well as incorporated war themes into their cartoons.
posted by Gungho at 6:21 AM on November 3, 2008

The Museum on the Seam in Jerusalem is a contemporary art museum that presents art as a way to talk about the conflict there.

Also, I think trench art is pretty fascinating.
posted by Mouse Army at 6:23 AM on November 3, 2008

Picasso's Guernica is at or close to the top of the list of anti-war art.
posted by alms at 6:43 AM on November 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

In the relatively small field of comics war journalism, Joe Sacco is a giant.

Comics served as propaganda in the US during WWII.

If you want to explore the depiction of war in sequential-picture art, throw in Trajan's Column and the Bayeux Tapestry. See Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics for more along these lines.
posted by hydrophonic at 6:59 AM on November 3, 2008

If you like WWII era cartoons, I suggest looking at Dr. Seuss Goes to War, a fabulous little book about Dr. Seuss' editorial cartoons. There's also an online gallery of the cartoons.

Also on the WWII front, check out the Fleischer Superman cartoons, which are in the public domain and widely available.
posted by immlass at 7:07 AM on November 3, 2008

Response by poster: I'd just like to thank everyone for the swift and interesting responses. You have been a huge help!
posted by Jennifer S. at 7:19 AM on November 3, 2008

Picasso in the Spanish Civil War.

One aside might be the Taliban's destruction of the ancient Buddhist statues around Afghanistan in the summer of 2001.

Also, Doonesbury was started during Vietnam, and much of the early Doonesbury was directly about it. More recent Doonesbury deals with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the same vein.
posted by General Malaise at 7:55 AM on November 3, 2008

Henri Rousseau, War
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:51 AM on November 3, 2008

There's this very interesting graphic novel just published about the end of WWII by Emmanuel Guibert called Alan's War. Here's a neat little video showing the artist's rather unusually technique.
posted by Toekneesan at 10:21 AM on November 3, 2008

I've always thought it'd be cool to read something on the effect of high-tech war on folk art, in instances where the war took place in places that had never seen anything like the conquerors or their equipment. I've heard, for instance, that parts of the Viet Nam war were fought in places that were so remote that their inhabitants didn't know they lived in a place called Viet Nam. What would their art look like after their encounters with the Americans?

A couple examples specific to art: Hmong wallhangings depicting American warplanes and soldiers. Rugs woven by Afghan women during the war with the Soviets.

Disclaimer: I quickly grabbed those pics off Google Images, so I can't vouch for their authenticity/provenance specifically, but they illustrate my idea as far as an essay topic goes.
posted by Rykey at 4:59 PM on November 3, 2008

Response by poster: I went with rtha's suggestion, but it was lovely having so much to choose from. Thanks to everyone who responded. Got an A on my paper and it's one of my favorite things I've written in college so far. :0)
posted by Jennifer S. at 8:48 AM on January 10, 2009

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