World War I & The End of Empires

Gallery 401

World War I & The End of Empires is the first public exhibition of works from a gift of more than 3,800 WWI artworks and objects collected by historian, scholar, and longtime art dealer Eric G. Carlson.

The First World War (1914–1918) involved not only many nations, but also many of the world’s empires, including the Austro-Hungarian, British, German, Ottoman, and Russian Empires, the French Colonial Empire, and the Empire of Japan.

In the wake of the industrial revolution, “The Great War,” with its new machines of destruction and the enormity of the resulting death tolls, brought about a seismic shift in human consciousness.

German soldier and writer Ernst Jünger wrote openly of the fatigue, melancholy and doubt experienced by both sides of the conflict, qualities that can be detected in several of the French paintings exhibited here:

“At such moments, there crept over me a mood I hadn’t known before. A profound reorientation, a reaction to so much time spent so intensely, on the edge. The seasons followed one another, it was winter and then it was summer again, but it was still war. I felt I had got tired, and used to the aspect of war, but it was from this familiarity that I observed what was in front of me in a new and subdued light. Things were less dazzlingly distinct. And I felt that the purpose with which I had gone out to fight had been used up, and no longer held. The war posed new, deeper puzzles. It was a strange time altogether.”

Selected images