The Art Of Remembrance


20121111The work of war poets such as Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen is well known, as is music such as Vaughan Williams' Pastoral Symphony, but artists responded in many more ways to the fallen of the Great War. Mark Whitaker looks at some particularly striking and lesser known examples of these responses, assisted throughout by the leading expert on Remembrance, Professor Jay Winter. Recorded largely on location in the UK, France, Belgium and Germany, Whitaker records his impressions of works by a painter, an architect, a film-maker, a sculptor and a poet.

In France he sees the extraordinary Thiepval Memorial on the Somme, created by Edwin Lutyens to commemorate the 70,000 British and Empire soldiers who died in the area and have no known grave. In Belgium he visits the sculpture Grieving Parents by Käthe Kollwitz, depicting her and her husband kneeling despairingly in front of their son Peter's grave, symbolising the loss felt by a generation of German parents. In Germany, he discovers the paintings of Otto Dix, in particular The Match Seller showing the fate of a severely disabled veteran scraping a living on the street, ignored by the affluent passers-by.

The film J'Accuse shows a great film-maker's response in the extraordinary scene where the war dead rise from their graves and march on a nearby town to confront the villagers whose behaviour is unworthy of their sacrifice.

Finally Whitaker looks at the controversial French non-combatant Maurice Barres who wrote romantically of dead soldiers rising up in the trenches to help their besieged comrades, bringing a stinging rebuke from combat veteran and poet Marc de Larreguy de Civrieux for this rosy view of trench warfare.

Producer: Mike Hally

A Square Dog Radio production for BBC Radio 4.