World War One - The Cultural Front

Episodes

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0301Bleeding France20160409

Francine Stock continues her annual exploration of the culture made in the years of war. 1916. A year of slaughter on an industrial scale at Verdun and The Somme. Paris, the city of eternal light was now darker, greyer and more French than before 1914. Under fire from above. A place of departure and arrival for the thousands of Poilu (hairy ones) sent up the line to death at Verdun, a 10 month artillery duel that would define France's war.

Many Poilu on leave (Permissionaires) just wanted a bed, a woman and entertainment to distract them from the memories of ceaseless bombardment. Picasso was painting portraits including poet Apollinaire. Home from the front with a star shaped wound and verses to match. Americans like Edith Wharton wrote fiction and fact in support of France's war, including The Book of the Homeless for which Stravinsky contributed an anti-German march.

Henri Barbusse, recovering from his wounds, broke new ground with his novel Under Fire. At the Musee de L'Armee hangs a remarkable canvas unlike any other created in the career of 'Nabi' painter Felix Vallotton. 'Verdun' is a boiling world of destruction with no place for man, pierced by deathly searchlights of colour and power.

Fernand Leger recorded his frontline experiences mainly in letters, able only to sketch not paint, but his watercolour La Cocarde shows the crumpled and broken aircraft that littered the battlefield. Some of those aircraft had carried aces, the new heroes of the war to either glory or destruction or both. Their deeds were vital morale boosters for both publics and governments. The flying Americans of the Lafayette Escadrille were instrumental in selling a good, clean war back home to a reluctant American public and young men eager for adventure.

Producer: Mark Burman.

0302The Tank And The Home Fires20160416

1916: Francine Stock continues her series on the cultural responses to the conflict with a focus on the tank. Prefigured in drawings by Leonardo and H.G. Wells' short story 'The Land Iron Clads', the tank appears at the Battle of the Somme on September 15, 1916. Quickly becoming a British icon, it attracts enormous public interest and sparks the production of popular souvenir items like handbags, teapots, toys and cartoons, popular songs and musical shows. The first officially commissioned war artist Muirhead Bone is sent out to the Somme and creates a series of dramatic charcoal drawings to illustrate its mesmerising appearance.

Meanwhile, hugely popular musicals like The Bing Boys are Here, Theodore and Co and Oscar Ashe's Chu Chin Chow provide distractions for maimed soldiers or those returning on leave from the horror of war. At cinemas across the country, twenty million people crowd to see the war first hand and spot their friends and family in The Battle of the Somme. As Mallins and McDowell lug their huge cameras around muddy trenches, you can lip-read men saying hello to their mums and see the naked fear on their faces before going over the parapet.

With huge swathes of children back home losing their fathers, Francine discovers how books such as 'Jospehine and Her Dolls', tried explain the alien world of war from a child's point of view. And she visits the study in Essex where H. G. Wells wrote one of the best-selling works of wartime fiction, Mr Britling Sees it Through. Many parallels can be drawn between Wells and the protagonist, not least the question, which Britling often poses, of whether an intellectual can really capture the realities of war from the comfort of his armchair.

Producer Clare Walker.

0303Dada And Defiance20160423

That endless, terrible year of '16. Francine Stock explores the struggle for meaning, freedom, sanity and possibility.

The supreme talent of Franz Marc is snuffed out in the first days of the battle of Verdun. In Berlin you can have a day out and knock a nail into a gigantic statue of war leader Hindenburg. On a street in Stepney they are knocking up a parody of him. In a Zurich night club strange sounds are conjured up by the weird magicians of a new movement - Dada. Shouting defiance of the madness of war. Britain's still disturbed by the losses at the Battle of Jutland are stunned by the death of Kitchener, icon, recruiting poster and war hero. An omen of terrible things to come in the months ahead? Sir Hubert Parry takes on a commission to put the words of Blake to music for The Fight to Right movement and Jerusalem sounds for the first time.

For the Jewish civilians of Eastern Europe there is no escape from war. Drafted into the armies of the Czar in disproportionate numbers, surrounded by anti-Semitism, displaced either by their own side or by invading German or Austro-Hungarian armies. The writings of Sholom Alecheim had brought the old world of the Shtetl to new, international audiences. His passing that year is marked by thousands in a grand funeral in New York. But back home all is disaster. Ethnologist S.Ansky travels from St Petersburg to the Pale of Settlement in a desperate attempt to document this disappearing world and bring aid and relief. Back in St Petersburg Maxim Gorky, Russia's senior literary figure, gathers together a host of writers in The Shield, to condemn the continued persecution of the Jews and celebrate their role in helping create the possibility of a new Russia to emerge from the chaos of the old.

0401The Jazz Kings Go To War2017081220171004

The story of the Harlem Hellfighters and how jazz conquered France.

In the first episode of a new series of The Cultural Front, Francine Stock tells the little known story of the 15th New York Regiment of the National Guard, who through acts of bravery and daring, came to be known as the Harlem Hellfighters.

They were an African American unit who, along with their military band, were sent to France in 1917.

It was a time of segregation in America; a time when Jim Crow laws still dominated society. The American military would not allow black soldiers to fight alongside white recruits so they gifted the 15th regiment to the French, following their terrible losses at the Somme and Verdun the year before.

The regiment was viewed as war fodder, they would entertain French villages before being sent off to the Frontline to fight, and most likely die.

But that did not happen.

The Harlem Hellfighters would not only go on to be the most decorated regiment in the American Expedition Force, but are credited with bringing jazz to Europe; a musical form which would define a generation.

Producer: Caitlin Smith.

0402Reality And Reconstruction2017081920171005

Francine Stock explores how the First World War transformed the arts across Europe.

In this week's Cultural Front, Francine Stock explores how artists reacted to the bitter reality of conflict.

First she learns from the meeting of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen at Craiglockhart hospital in Edinburgh, an event that directly lead to Owen becoming one of the greatest War Poets in the British Canon. To commemorate their meeting, fiddle maker Steve Burnett has been commissioned to make an instrument for both men, and we get to hear them played together for the very first time.

Next we travel beyond the Eastern Front to the Russian Revolution. In time theatre and film will create an enduring myth, but we delve into the poetry that acts like snapshots of history, preserving the truth of the messy, divisive revolution and showing what it was really like to watch the entire social order crumble and reform into a new world.

Of course, not all artists tackled war head on in their art. 1917 was the year that saw Pablo Picasso begin his collaboration with The Ballet Russe and the creation of his biggest ever piece of work - The Parade Curtain. How would the public react to a piece that was all about youth, joy and defiance of war, when the people they loved were still fighting at the front?

Back home, sculptor Francis Derwent Wood was volunteering in a London hospital when he saw first hand what happened to the men who had been injured in the line of duty. Seeing the profound psychological impact on patients suffering facial injuries Wood decided to set up a studio within the hospital, with the goal of sculpting tin masks that would make the patient look as close as possible to how he had been before he was wounded. A century later, we're left puzzling about what these masks really are - a well intentioned but flawed medical tool, or a kind of anti-portraiture that shows the realities of war in a way that still feels visceral even today.

0403An Intimate War2017082620171006

Francine Stock considers the intimate impact of war on society and culture.

By 1917 soldiers had been fighting what seemed like a never ending war. They yearned for entertainment, an escape from the horror surrounding them.

In the final episode of this year's series on the Great War, Francine Stock finds out about popular cross-dressing theatre troupes who by 1917 were taking the Front Line by storm.

Female impersonators with names like the Sensual Salome and Bodo Wild would perform in front of huge crowds of admiring soldiers, who would send them love letters, perfume and stockings.

Although there was a widespread expectation that war would cause society to return to Victorian ideals about the roles of men and women, instead it started challenged traditional norms.

There was tension between the model of the war hero - as depicted in popular literature - and the private experience of the combatants who read these books and poems. Novels spoke of war as a "rattling good adventure yarn", but the real life battlefield told a different story.

Producer: Caitlin Smith.

051918: Chaplin Goes to War20180908

The propaganda and protest art that comes from America at war.

Francine Stock explores how World War I changed art, words and society.

As large numbers of U.S. troops start arriving on the Western Front in 1918, Francine Stock examines the response of artists and movie stars to their country's commitment to war.

The Bryce report on alleged German outrages causes George Bellows, one of the most acclaimed American artists of his generation, to drastically change his views on the war effort. The nephew of modernist painter Claggett Wilson talks about his uncles ability to portray the feeling, not just the sight, of war.

And Charlie Chaplin moves away from what he calls 'sausage pictures' to make Shoulder Arms - a film about a private with dreams of becoming a war hero.

Plus, in Britain, the mysterious lost film of David Lloyd George, and how Shakespeare was misquoted in the name of war.

Presenter: Francine Stock
Producers: Georgia Catt and Mark Burman
Production Coordinator: Anne Smith.

051918: Chaplin Goes to War2018090820181107 (R4)

The propaganda and protest art that comes from America at war

Francine Stock explores how World War I changed art, words and society.

051918: Vienna and the Fall of an Empire2018091520181108 (R4)

Francine Stock examines the cultural life of Vienna in 1918.

Francine Stock explores how World War I changed art, words and society.

051918: Vienna and the Fall of an Empire20180915

Francine Stock examines the cultural life of Vienna in 1918.

Francine Stock explores how World War I changed art, words and society.

Francine Stock travels to Vienna to examine the rich cultural and artistic life of the city in the final days of the Hapsburg Empire.

In November 1918 the vast Austro-Hungarian Empire was lost overnight. The removal of the dual monarchy from the European map left the imperial capital of Vienna and its staggeringly well equipped civil service with no empire to run. Vienna had fallen from grace and with it, decades of rich artistic life were lost.

And yet right up until the Empire's last days, Vienna had continued to be a cultural hub at the heart of European modernism. Despite food shortages and the hardships of war, the Viennese continued to frequent cinemas, salons and cafes. Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka continued to paint and exhibit their work internationally, Franz Schreker composed one of his most popular operas, while writers Karl Kraus and Stefan Zweig documented everyday life.

Producer: Sarah Shebbeare
Production Coordinator: Anne Smith.

05The Return of the Soldier2018092220181109 (R4)

Francine Stock concludes her four-year exploration of how artists responded to WWI.

Francine Stock explores how World War I changed art, words and society.

05011918: Chaplin Goes To War20180908

The propaganda and protest art that comes from America at war.

Francine Stock explores how World War I changed art, words and society.

As large numbers of U.S. troops start arriving on the Western Front in 1918, Francine Stock examines the response of artists and movie stars to their country's commitment to war.

The Bryce report on alleged German outrages causes George Bellows, one of the most acclaimed American artists of his generation, to drastically change his views on the war effort. The nephew of modernist painter Claggett Wilson talks about his uncles ability to portray the feeling, not just the sight, of war.

And Charlie Chaplin moves away from what he calls 'sausage pictures' to make Shoulder Arms - a film about a private with dreams of becoming a war hero.

Plus, in Britain, the mysterious lost film of David Lloyd George, and how Shakespeare was misquoted in the name of war.

Presenter: Francine Stock
Producers: Georgia Catt and Mark Burman
Production Coordinator: Anne Smith.

0502Vienna And The Fall Of An Empire20180915

Francine Stock examines the cultural life of Vienna in 1918.

Francine Stock explores how World War I changed art, words and society.

In November 1918 the vast Austro-Hungarian Empire was lost overnight. The removal of the dual monarchy from the European map left the imperial capital of Vienna and its staggeringly well equipped civil service with no empire to run. Vienna had fallen from grace and with it, decades of rich artistic life were lost.

And yet right up until the Empire's last days, Vienna had continued to be a cultural hub at the heart of European modernism. Vienna was not a combat zone and the population was never directly confronted by war. Despite food shortages and the hardships of war, the Viennese continued to frequent cinemas, salons and cafes. Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka continued to paint and exhibit their work internationally, Franz Schreker composed one of his most popular operas, while writers Karl Kraus and Stefan Zweig documented everyday life.

Francine Stock travels to Vienna to examine the rich cultural and artistic life of Vienna right up to the final days of the Hapsburg Empire.

Producer: Sarah Shebbeare
Production Coordinator: Anne Smith.

0503The Return Of The Soldier20180922

Francine Stock concludes her four-year exploration of how artists responded to WWI.

Francine Stock explores how World War I changed art, words and society.

Francine Stock concludes her 4 year exploration of how artists responded to World War One. As the war enters its final deadly year Marc Chagall becomes Cultural Commissar of Vitebsk, Isaac Babel sends fevered dispatches from revolutionary Petrograd and everyone asks Elgar what music he will write for the Armstice. Meanwhile young novelist Rebecca West makes her literary debut with the Return of the soldier whilst a desperate Stanley Spencer longs for his return to his beloved Cookham amongst the killing fields of Salonika.

Producer: Mark Burman.

Francine Stock concludes her four-year exploration of how artists responded to WWI.

Francine Stock explores how World War I changed art, words and society.

Francine Stock concludes her 4 year exploration of how artists responded to World War One. As the war enters its final deadly year Marc Chagall becomes Cultural Commissar of Vitebsk, Isaac Babel sends fevered dispatches from revolutionary Petrograd & everyone asks Elgar what music he will write for the Armstice. Meanwhile young novelist Rebecca West makes her literary debut with the Return of the soldier whilst a desperate Stanley Spencer longs for his return to his beloved Cookham amongst the killing fields of Salonika.

Producer: Mark Burman.