Coquelicot Art of the First World War
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  Total war

Although the main theatre of war was the land operations in the west, in the east - in the Alps, the Balkans and the Dardanelles - the war among the world's nations was fought on the sea and, for the very first time, in the air. This made it even more dependent on technology and industry. The one improved and invented, whilst the other produced. 

War on the Seas

It very soon became clear that the Royal Navy was under no threat from the Kriegsmarine. The Allies could therefore attempt to set up a blockade with the long term aim of gaining a stranglehold on the Empires of Central Europe. The destruction of the German cruiser squadron in the Pacific off the Falkland Islands in December 1914 and the inconclusive Battle of Jutland (May 31st 1916) saw off the German surface vessels. On the other hand, from 1915, the German U-boat offensive had several aims: to break out of the Allied blockade, cut off inter-Allied maritime communications, and attack Allied supply ships. The sinking of the liner Lusitania in 1915 heralded the beginning of a war without mercy, which was what it had become. In 1917, German submarines caused serious damage to the Allied merchant navy with 680 000 tonnes lost in April alone, and patrolled the seven seas in large numbers. Hence the need to adapt camouflage techniques to shipping. The mainly British painters enthusiastically rose to the challenge, the only one now left to them. The dearth of sea battles and the spread of submarine warfare had robbed them of the themes which were traditionally theirs and which Manet was one of the last painters to treat during the American Civil War. 

The War in the Air

In 1914, France possessed 162 aircraft and in 1918, 11 836, including 3 437 on the front lines - these figures say it all. A similar increase took place on the side of the central empire states and the Commonwealth. Throughout the war, technology progressed in leaps and bounds in terms of speed, handling, range of action, onboard weaponry, pilot training and organisation of the airforce. Aircraft became specialised in fighting, observation and bombing; for the bombers needed to be designed as heavier machines with several engines, whereas the fighter planes required lightweight power and manoeuvrability. The pilots of the warring nations gradually came to be surrounded in the myth of the "ace" with his numerous kills as a mechanised version of the mediaeval knight. He alone escaped the anonymous death of the trenches, and nations claimed to see in him the embodiment of their supposed ancestral virtues.
The only difficulty was that aeroplanes and aerial combat could not be captured by photography, as zoom lenses did not exist yet. The planes were therefore no more than tiny specks, which did not satisfy the readers of the illustrated dailies any more than the pictures of squadrons on the ground or poor quality portraits of pilots. So the most modern form of warfare was paradoxically often best suited to conventional pictorial representation, which succeeded where photography failed. 


All this no longer relied on military force, but rather on economic force: the capacity of the country to convert its industry almost exclusively to the production of arms, to supply raw materials, to mobilise the workforce and to produce with the aim of destroying. We are aware of the consequences of the Great War: the generalisation of female workers; the reinforcement of heavy metallurgical chemical and mechanical industries; the Allied victory when the material power of the Americans arrived in support of the British and French at a time when the blockade was slowly exhausting the capacities of German factories. These factories produced fewer and fewer munitions, they had trouble renewing arms supplies and could no longer compete in the production of assault tanks. It was such weaknesses that heralded the defeat.

Suffering . . .

      War on the Seas 
54 - L. Campbell Taylor
55 - John D. Fergusson
56 - Edward Alexander Wadsworth 

    The War in the Air
57 - Max Edler von Poosch
58 - John Lavery
59 - Sydney Carline
60 - Fernand Léger
61 - C. R. W. Nevinson 

62 - Edouard Vuillard
63 - Charles Ginner
64 - George Clausen
65 - William Roberts