Until this lecture, I had never really thought about this combination of concepts: illustration and conflict. To me, illustration doesn’t really relate to conflict but I suppose that may simply be my inner pacifist-hippie-lover illustrator speaking.
These two concepts get together whenever there’s a war.
Words can be deceptive in these situations and so journalists are resorting more and more often to images to tell the other half of the world how things are really going on. And if photographs tell the real, raw, shocking story, illustrations can always be interpretated through different perspectives; what they represent may or not be the reality – which is always a sort of relief for us as we don’t really want to know the truth, we simply want to be informed.
According to Barbara McCloskey (2005), a war artist reproduces some aspect of a war through art. The work of art may be descriptive, emotional, a pictorial record or a commemoration of the way war shapes lives. War artists explore the visual and sensory dimensions of war, looking into narrative, depth, space, time, etc.
We looked into some examples of war illustrators like Peter Sullivan, George Butler, C. R. W. Nevinson and, surprisingly, E. H. Shepard (the man behind the illustrations of Winnie The Pooh).
Each one of these artists has a very unique style and perspective of the time they spent in war, which may be interesting on the one hand – we can compare illustrations between different artists and discuss the different approaches – but, on the other, it doesn’t give us an accurate idea of the reality. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it’s not.