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Impact of First World War on Avant-Garde Modernism and Beauty Culture Examined in October 9 Goldberg Lecture

Posted by on Thursday, October 5, 2017 in Events, HART, Lectures, News, VRC.

MaskDavid Lubin, Charlotte C. Weber Professor of Art, Wake Forest University, examines medical and humanitarian efforts to restore the faces of soldiers badly disfigured by trench warfare in the First World War and considers the downstream effects of these efforts on both avant-garde modernism and the commercial beauty culture that arose after the armistice.
Lubin will deliver the Norman L. and Roselea J. Goldberg Lecture in Art History, Behind the Mask: WWI, Plastic Surgery, and the Modern Beauty Revolution, on Monday, October 9, at 6 pm in 203 Cohen Memorial Hall on the Peabody campus.

During the Great War, trenches exposed combatants’ faces to sniper fire and flying shrapnel. In previous wars such wounds would have proven fatal. Now, with improved medical and transport services, the wounded could be saved–but not always their faces as well. Crudely patched together and sent back to the front or to their families, men with “broken faces” were routinely ostracized, according to Lubin. His lecture will explore the humanitarian efforts of plastic surgeons to restore obliterated faces and sculptors to fashion prosthetic masks, while also considering postwar avant-garde modernism and the modern beauty culture, both of which evidence a visceral reaction to wartime unsightliness.

Lubin has written extensively on American art and popular culture.  Shooting Kennedy: JFK and the Culture of Images examines the photographic portrayal of Jack and Jackie Kennedy from their public courtship in 1953 to the events of Dallas ten years later. The book won the Smithsonian Institution’s Charles Eldredge Prize for “outstanding scholarship in American art.”  His most recent book, Grand Illusions: American Art and the First World War, was published in 2016 by Oxford University Press. In 2016-2017 he was the inaugural holder of the Terra Foundation for American Art Visiting Professorship at Oxford University.

Along with two co-curators, Lubin organized for the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts the traveling exhibition World War I and American Art, which opened at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts on October 6.  On view through January 21, the exhibit provides an unprecedented opportunity to examine the war and its impact on American art.

The Goldberg Lecture, followed by a reception, is sponsored by the Department of History of Art. Parking is available in Lot 95 outside Cohen Hall. For more information, call (615) 322-2831.

*American Red Cross photographer. Soldier with mutilated face protected by one of Anna Coleman Ladd’s masks, 1918. Black-and-white photographic print from digital file, 8 3/4 x 6 3/8 inches. Library of Congress, Washington, DC, Prints and Photographs Division.



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