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Unit information: Art and War (Level I Special Field) in 2016/17

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Unit name Art and War (Level I Special Field)
Unit code HART20027
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Brockington
Open unit status Not open



HART 22225 Special Field Project

School/department Department of History of Art (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit argues that war induces a crisis in the work of artists who find themselves caught up in it, whether as soldiers, reporters, civilians or protesters. It traces that sense of crisis from the First World War, across a century of conflict, to the present day. Such a long time period enables us to explore the tradition of war art that has unfolded over the past 100 years. It takes an unconventional route through the C20th, bypassing the usual narrative of 'modern movements', and constructing its own, alternative canon. It raises difficult questions about death, mutilation, violence and bereavement, and how they should be represented. And it uncovers some difficult material; difficult because it is distressing to look at, but also difficult because it may seem too easy on the eye. War art can be disturbing because its subject-matter is inherently ugly, but perhaps one of the most disruptive things about it, is that its treatment of that subject can also be beautiful. Themes for discussion may include: war photography, dystopian landscapes, peace protest, memorials, and satire. Artists may include Paul Nash, Otto Dix, Vanessa Bell, Don McCullin, Robert Capa, Pablo Picasso, and Nancy Spero, amongst others.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit students should have:

  • identified, analysed, and deepened their understanding of the significance of key themes in war art over the past century
  • understood the historiographical debates that surround the topic
  • learned how to work with primary sources
  • developed their skills in contributing to and learning from discussion in a small-group environment

Teaching Information

Weekly 2-hour seminar

Assessment Information

2-hour unseen written examination (summative, 100%)

The examination will assess their understanding of the unit’s key themes in war art over the past century, the related historiography as developed during their reading and participation in / learning from small group seminars, and relevant primary sources. Further assessment of their handling of the relevant primary sources will be provided by the co-requisite Special Field Project (HART 22225)

Reading and References

Brandon, Laura, Art and War (London: I.B. Tauris, 2007)

Brockington, Grace, Above the Battlefield: British Modernism and the Peace Movement, 1900-1918 (New Haven, Conn.; London: Yale University Press, 2010)

Bruckner, DJR, Seymour Chwast and Steven Heller, Art against War: 400 years of protest in art (NT: Abbeville Press, 1984)

Sivan, Emmanuel and Jay Winter (eds), War and remembrance in the twentieth century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).

Sontag, Susan, Regarding the pain of others (London: Penguin Books, 2004)

Stallabrass, Julian, Memory of Fire: Images of war and the war of images (Photoworks, 2013)