The First World War is the defining event of the 20th century. For those who lived, it was scary, chaotic and strange. It was traumatic and transformative. However, after 100 years, the First World War is often lost in the collective consciousness.
Edmund Griesen does not blind us with graphic illustrations of violent acts. Instead, he uses faceless images and soft, muted tones so that we know about the destruction of war.
In 1918, the artist found a job as an overseas secretary in the Council for Military Works and went to France. Griesen’s ability to speak French enabled him to communicate well with French soldiers and teach French to American soldiers. Traveling through the French region of Alsace-Lorraine, the artist sketched the monotony of a soldier’s life in a war, reflected in almost faceless figures and monochromatic colors of his images.
Before the war, Griesen’s impressionistic style inspired by Monet contained dreamy pastel views of beaches, gardens, and women. However, during his time in the war, Griesen captured obsessive scenes of ruined Franceusing pale, eerie, winter tones, emphasizing the gloomy nature of war.