Minds At War

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01Paths Of Glory20140623

How great artists and thinkers responded to the First World War in individual works of art

1. BBC Correspondent Allan Little reflects on C.R.W.Nevinson's great 1917 painting, Paths of Glory

C.R.W.Nevinson's painting, Paths of Glory, is a distant cry from the rallying recruitment posters which appeared at the start of the war. It depicts the bloated corpses of two dead soldiers, stretched out in the mud, against a backdrop of tangled barbed wire, somewhere on the Western Front.

Unsuprisingly, it was censored at the time.

Perhaps part of its shock value was in its title. In his Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, the 18th century poet, Thomas Gray, had declared "the Paths of Glory lead but to the grave", but in Nevinson's painting, the two fallen soldiers are far from the comfort even of a grave in an English country churchyard, and, indeed, from any decent burial at all.

In his many years as a BBC Special Correspondent, Allan Little has witnessed some shocking scenes of war and has also reflected on the depiction of war in news footage and photography as well as in the works of contemporary war artists.

He considers the continuing power of Nevinson's painting and the role of art both in recruiting soldiers and in denouncing war.

Producer; Beaty Rubens.

01Tagore's Nobel Lectures20150622

Further Essays in the major Radio Three series exploring how great artists and thinkers responded to World War One in individual works of art.

1.Rabindranath Tagore: Santanu Das explores the great Indian thinker's Nobel lectures

Afer Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, he became one of the most feted literary figure of the war years. He was read at home but also in the trenches, by the likes of Wilfred Owen.

With his long white beard, flowing Indian clothes and intense gaze, Tagore came across as some sort of Oriental prophet, speaking for peace at a time of war. In 1916, he gave a series of lectures in Japan and the United States on 'Nationalism'. In them he noted: 'In this frightful war, the West has stood face to face with her own creation'. For him, the War was neither a sudden eruption nor a case of Europe sleepwalking into conflict but, rather, the shattering logical climax of unchecked Western nationalism and imperialism: 'suddenly, with all its mechanism going mad, it has begun the dance of the Furies, shattering its own limbs, scattering them into the dust. It is the fifth act of the tragedy of the unreal.'

Santanu Das, Reader in English at King's College, London, tells the story of a largely fogotten writer and thnker.

Producer: Beaty Rubens

02Non-combatants And Others20140624

How great artists and thinkers responded to the Frst World War in individual works of art

2.Sarah LeFanu reflects on Rose Macaulay's 1916 novel, Non-Combatants and Others

Rose Macaulay is perhaps best remembered for her final novel, The Towers of Trebizond, but her biographer, Sarah LeFanu, has long believed that one of her earlier novels, Non-Combatants and Others, is a work of striking originality. She also argues for its importance to our understanding of the impact of the First World War not only on soldiers at the front but on the entire nation.

The books which have become the foundational texts of our perception and understanding of the war are all by men who had served as soldiers - Edmund Blunden, Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves - but all were written more than a decade later, when their authors had had time to shape and mediate their experiences through a process of post-war reflections.

The immediacy of Non-Combatants and Others - written and set in 1915 - is another reason for its claim to be regarded as a key text of the war.

Sarah LeFanu brings the novel alive by interweaving a re-telling of its story with her reflections on how it sheds light on Macaulay's own changing attitude to the war, and her later commitment to the League of Nations Union and the Peace Pledge Union.

Producer : Beaty Rubens.

02Tzara's Dada Manifesto20150623

How great artists and thinkers responded to the horrors of the First World War in individual works of art.

2.Stand-Up comedian Arthur Smith presents a suitably Dada-esque account of Tristan Tzara's Dada Manifesto.

Arthur Smith has long been fascinated by the Dada movement, which began one hundred years ago in 1915. His interest was re-ignited by a recent visit to the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, where Tzara - a French writer and performance artist of Romanian-Jewish descent - first came to prominence. This visit led him to reflect both on the seriousness of the dadists' project - as a protest against the meaningless horrors of the First World War - and on their use of comedy to express their ideas.

Juxtaposing the Dada Manifesto with his thoughts on that most conventional of War poets, Rupert Brooke, Arthur Smith's comic and thought-provoking Essay is a document of which Tristan Tzara himself - had he been a radio broadcaster - would have been proud.

Producer: Beaty Rubens

03Der Krieg20140625

How great artists and thinkers responded to the First World War in individual works of art

Cartoonist and writer Martin Rowson reflects on Otto Dix's Der Krieg, a harrowing cycle of prints of wartime experience.

In 1924, six years after the end of hostiliies, the painter Otto Dix, who had been a machine-gunner in the German Army, produced his 51 Der Krieg prints. Gruesome, hallucinatory, and terribly frank, these postcards of conflict tell the soldier's ghastly tale.

Cartoonist Martin Rowson, whose own work is similarly direct and uncompromising, tells Dix's story, exposing what the War did to the man and ponders why Der Krieg remains such a powerful statement.

Producer: Benedict Warren.

03Minds At War: Francis Ledwidge's Poem O'connell Street20160413

How great artists and thinkers responded to the First World War in individual works of art.

To mark the centenary of the Easter Rising, this series of Minds at War explores how Irish artists were influenced by the First World War.

3. Poet and academic Gerald Dawe explores the little known poet Francis Ledwidge and his poem "O'Connell Street".

Producer: Emma Kingsley.

03Woolf's Mrs Dalloway20150624

Virginia Woolf spent the First World War on the Home front mainly in London. It was an anxious time; she lost several cousins in the conflict, and her brother-in-law Cecil Woolf died at the Front; in 1915 she suffered a mental breakdown.

For Woolf the war had changed everything, and her three novels written soon after it -Jacob's Room (1922), Mrs Dalloway (1925) and To the Lighthouse (1927) - display a marked shift in style. 'There had to be new forms for our new sensations', she wrote in a 1916 essay, and in 1923 went further:

'We are sharply cut off from our predecessors. A shift in the scale - the war, the sudden slip of masses held in position for ages - has shaken the fabric from top to bottom, alienated us from the past and made us perhaps too vividly conscious of the present'.

In 1925 Woolf's brilliant novel Mrs Dalloway would amaze readers with its literary techniques and its counterpointing of society hostess Clarissa Dalloway and war veteran Septimus Warren-Smith. Here was a work of fiction in which the principal characters never meet, where the Victorian staples of plot and family relationships are eclipsed by a new emphasis on what the characters think rather than what they do or say.

For Dame Gillian Beer this thronging novel with its cast of war profiteers, war casualties, and passers-by ultimately has a positive message. In Mrs Dalloway Virginia Woolf draws the reader and the novel's characters together: 'Whether known or unknown to each other, in a shared humanity,' she says, 'her work draws us all alongside, across time'.


The long-running series in which scholars, writers and critics explore the impact of the First World War on individual artists through a single work of art.

4.The distinguished art critic, Richard Cork, discusses Pablo Picasso's designs for the Ballets Russes production, Parade, which premiered in Paris in 1917, with music by Erik Satie and a one-act scenario by Jean Cocteau.

Picasso's sets and costumes for Parade are now considered key works, representative of the tumultuous era in which they were produced. At the onset of war, Picasso had left France and moved to Rome, where the Ballets Russes rehearsed. He soon met the ballerina Olga Khokhlova, and married her in 1918, so these were years of personal change as well as artistic.

Although the ballet took time to gain critical response, its originality was recognised by some at the time. Guillaume Apollinaire, who wrote the programme notes for Parade, described Picasso's designs as "a kind of surrealism" (une sorte de surréalisme) three years before Surrealism developed as an art movement in Paris, partly as a response to the war.

Producer: Beaty Rubens.

04The Memorandum On The Neglect Of Science20140626

How great artists and thinkers responded to the First World War in individual works of art.

Professor David Edgerton of King's College London reflects on the Memorandum on the Neglect of Science, a 1916 clarion-call from the British scientific establishment.

In a letter to The Times that year, many of the great names of British science declared their belief that both academic and applied science were being treated as Cinderella subjects. The Germans, they surmised, had got their act together and were outflanking the British military effort in chemical warfare, armaments and generally taking science more seriously.

They continued by observing that the entrance examinations for Oxford and Cambridge Universities and the civil service, were weighted towards the Classics rather than sciences. Was this the first stirrings CP Snow's Two Cultures debate?

David Edgerton, the Hans Rausing Professor of the History of Science and Technology and Professor of Modern British History, at King's College London, finds out what was going on at the time and looks at how the First World War advanced British science.

Producer: Benedict Warren.

05Akhmatova's July 191420150626

The poet and translator Sasha Dugdale explores the impact of the First War on the great Russian poet, Anna Akhmatova.

Her focus is on the collection, White Flock, published in 1917, but written during the war. In many poems, Akhmatova mentions the war directly, and in others, echoes of loss and war sound, refracted through peculiarly Russian folk imagery.

Sasha focuses on a two-part poem called 'July 1914'. In the first stanza, the turf has been burning for four weeks and the dry summer smells of smoke and fumes. The birds aren't singing and the aspen isn't moving. A one-legged wanderer comes to the house with terrible prophecies and predicts that 'soon there won't be room for all the fresh graves'. In the second part, the juniper's sweet smell rises from the burning wood and the widow's cry sounds. Instead of water and the rain they have prayed for, a warm red wetness floods the trampled fields.

Sasha's powerful Essay includes a new translation of the poem and a poignant account of how some of its motifs are now reappearing in contemporary writing about the war in Ukraine.

05Thoughts For The Times On War And Death20140627

How great artists and thinkers reponsed to the First World War in individual works of art, literature and scholarship

5.Michal Shapira on Sigmund Freud's Thoughts for the Times on War and Death, a text written in Vienna in 1915, expressing his dismay as the war progressed.

The declaration of war in 1914 was initially met with jubilation by the people of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and, in Vienna, Sigmund Freud shared the general mood

But, like his fellow-citizens, Freud expected a quick war. By February 1915, with two of his sons fighting and thousands of injured and traumatised soldiers returning from the front, Freud's feelings had changed.

The Israeli academic Michal Shapira reflects on his Thoughts for the Times on War and Death and considers how it prefigures some of his later, better-known works on war and the death-drive.

Producer : Beaty Rubens

06Le Feu20140630

How great artists and thinkers responded to the First World War in individual work.

6. Dr Heather Jones of the LSE reflects on Henri Barbusse's novel Le Feu.

Completed in 1916 and the work of a French soldier at the front, Le Feu was the first explicit account of conditions there. It proved a revelation to a French public sold a sentimental line by the press of the time. Yet Le Feu, with its deep insights into the emotions of men at war, was not seen as damaging to home-front morale. Here was a new kind of writing in which rural dialects and working- class accents conveyed heroism, and could be literary, even transcendent.

Producer: Ben Warren.

07Battleship Potemkin20140701

How great artists and thinkers responded to the First World War in individual works of art and scholarship

7.Ian Christie on Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin

For Russians of Sergei Eisenstein's generation, the experience of the First World War was overtaken by the revolution of 1917, which took Russia out of the war and plunged it into a bitter civil war from which the infant Bolshevik Soviet state emerged.

Eisenstein seized the opportunity of serving in the Red Army in order to become a radical theatre director, which led him into film as part of the first generation of Soviet film-makers who would astonish the world in the late 1920s with films like The Battleship Potemkin and October. These films would shape the cultural and political landscape of the interwar years - championed by those who wanted to condemn the Great War as an imperialist struggle, and also foreshadowing the Second World War, as in Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky.

The distinguished film historian Ian Christie untangles this complex story.

Producer Beaty Rubens

08Fighting France, From Dunkerque To Belfort20140702

How great artists and thinkers responded to the First World War in their work.

8. BBC Correspondent Lyse Doucet, fresh from her experiences in Afghanistan and Syria, introduces novelist Edith Wharton's reportage from wartime France, 'Fighting France, from Dunkerque to Belfort'.

Wharton, best known for 'The Age Of Innocence' and 'The House of Mirth', was granted unique access to the Western front and wrote one of the most evocative and undeservedly neglected accounts of life in France in World War One.

In its pages, penned early in the war, are Wharton's painterly descriptions of the country's overnight transformation from peace to war, her deep love for France and its people, and her accounts of the destruction wrought upon the villages and towns in the path of the German invader.

Producer: Benedict Warren.

09The Broken Wing20140703

How great artists and thinkers responded to the First World War in individual works of art and scholarship

9.Santanu Das on the Indian poet, Sarojini Naidu's 1917 collection, The Broken Wing: Songs of Love, Death and the Spring.

Saraojini Naidu was born in Hyderabad in 1879 and became known as "the Nightingale of India" for her work as a poet and also as an Indian independence activist.

Of her 1917 collection, Rabindranath Tagore declared: "Your poems in The Broken Wing seem to be made of tears and fire, like the clouds of a July evening, glowing with the muffled power of sunset."

The distinguished scholar of the First World War, Santanu Das, a reader in English at King's College, London, reflects on the importance of Naidu's work and on the impact of the First World War on the Indian fight for independence.

Producer : Beaty Rubens

10 LASTThe Grieving Parents20140704

How great artists and thinkers responded to the First World War through individual works of art

10.The poet Ruth Padel reflects on the German artist Kathe Kollwitz's memorial for her youngest son Peter, who died on the battlefields of the First World War in October 1914.

The German painter, printmaker and sculptor created some of the greatest and most searing accounts of the tragedies of poverty, hunger and war in the 20th century.

The death of her youngest son, Peter, in October 1914, prompted a prolonged period of deep depression, but by the end of that year she was turning her thoughts to creating a moument to Peter and his fallen comrades.

She destroyed this first monument in 1919 and began again in 1925. The final memorial, entitled The Grieving Parents, was finally completed in 1932 and placed in the cemetery where Peter lay.

The poet Ruth Padel traces Kollwitz's long period of anguish and artistic growth.

Producer : Beaty Rubens