This display of European prints and drawings created between 1917 and 1918 pinpoints two crucial years that would define the end of an era and lead toward a new future. Despite the sobering realities of the First World War, those living beyond the battlefields sought normalcy in their day-to-day existence. Just as we—a century later—cope with uncertainty and upheaval, German and Austrian citizens instigated routines, examined their circumstances and beliefs, and escaped into fictional stories, plays, and films. Artists built on the legacies of naturalism and expressionism to evoke the texture and mood of a changing society, and provided imagery for posters and periodicals, graphic forms of communication that inserted art into everyday life.
This selection of works is a time capsule of sorts, revealing how artists captured ideas of place and identity, religion and societal norms, and cultural and literary traditions. From the standpoint of a difficult present, they turned a weary gaze on the past and an inquiring glance toward the future we now inhabit in 2017/2018. Drawn from LACMA’s permanent collection, most works have rarely been exhibited and many were created by artists who are today little known—yet they retain their power to communicate across the span of a century.