War Trauma in the Sketches of German Expressionist Artist Erich Heckel, 1914-1918

War Trauma in the Sketches of German Expressionist Artist Erich Heckel, 1914-1918

Miss Jana JankuliakovaZoom

Content warning: This paper contains and discusses sensitive archival materials, such as medical records and photographs capturing psychologically and physically traumatised men.

This paper investigates how traumatic experience of the Great War changed perception and representation of the traumatised male bodies in the early 20th century German visual art and medical imagery. It focuses on a close analysis of the sketches of one of the major German expressionist artists Erich Heckel (1883-1970), who served as a medical orderly in hospitals on both home front and front line. During this period, Heckel encountered and sketched numerous physically and psychologically traumatised men. The resulting sketches intimately depict the impact of the war on the male bodies and the conditions and mood in the military hospitals as perceived by the artist.

Heckel’s sketches are in a stark contrast to the official medical photographs and discourse that aimed to promote a particular version of the war in which the masculine experience of pain, suffering, and death were often obliterated. This paper will discuss Heckel’s sketches within the framework of German body politics and examine the extents to which these works participate in, or critique perception and representation of the traumatised male bodies within the medical context and the wider society.

University of Glasgow, UK
Thu 14:30 - 16:00
Mental Health, Visual Culture
Standard paper