The moment we landed in France we started collecting and giving away souvenirs. The First World War had a devastating effect on civilian life, through deprivation, starvation and the destruction of towns, farms and homes. And, in countless interviews, I came across ideas, stories, insights and attitudes that seemed to move effortlessly back and forth between the trench art I had come to study, family experiences and memories of the war, and the surface worlds and underground landscapes of the conflict. Pilckem Ridge saw fierce fighting and terrible losses on both sides during the Third Battle of Ypres Passchendaele between July and August , and lay on the route of an extension to the A19 motorway. Photographs and diaries show just how far men had been changed by war, and how the everyday objects they sought had become worth risking their lives for. The exhibition ends with a second group of Antwerp painters who also strove for renewal. The material culture of war is not restricted to such obvious wartime items as weaponry and ammunition, uniforms, personal belongings, devastated buildings and defensive structures.
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For example, what role did the war souvenir play for the family in whose home it resided for thirty years or more? Between and , the landscapes of war were presented to the British public in a variety of ways, from official drawings to paintings, from photographs to films and maps. Religious feelings also were changed by the war, particularly in the way that Protestant British soldiers felt about that definitively Catholic icon, the crucifix. It has the potential to connect in powerful new ways with younger generations of students, scholars and battlefield visitors, and those who are interested in understanding the human cost of creating the modern world in which we live. What occurred from onwards, however, was a quite different phenomenon. Within months, the butte would be recaptured by the Germans. It is possible that more earth was dug, more archaeological sites uncovered, more stratigraphy revealed, and more ancient artefacts discovered during the four years of the war than at any time before or since.
Exhibition explores First World War’s influence on Flemish arts | Flanders Today
The reconstruction that so changed the landscapes of war and disoriented so many was partly funded with money raised by British towns. These items, however, were not produced in life-and-death circumstances, and tended to be made partly to alleviate boredom, but mainly to earn extra money, food and favours from their guards. These objects can be small, for example a bullet or an identity disc, medium-sized, such as a tank, aeroplane or bunker, or as large as a trench system or a whole battlefield landscape. As we explore these objects, we create a personal and emotional link between the past and the present, but also between our own recent ancestors and ourselves. They also discovered this land mine in almost perfect condition. The first phase belongs to the period of the war itself, —18, the second to the years —90, the third to the decade of the s and the early s, and the fourth from to the present. The French and British, though wartime allies, could not resist competing with each other in the guise of archaeology.
The oldest son of a rich coffee roaster, he frequently travelled to Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. The screening of this epic brought the —18 conflict into countless homes, newly equipped with a television set — and, appropriately, in black and white. Considered together, these diverse articles were a powerful call to arms. It is possible that more earth was dug, more archaeological sites uncovered, more stratigraphy revealed, and more ancient artefacts discovered during the four years of the war than at any time before or since. It banished the idea of a prosperous, mainly pastoral past, and replaced it with a new and momentous reality — total war. Never before had there been the strategic conditions or the weapons that cut open the landscape across such vast areas as happened between and Flemish cheerleading team bring home gold.
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