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How The Second World War Impacted Art

It’s fair to say that we are currently in the middle of a global crisis. Hopefully, this is a crisis that won’t last for much longer. The constant lockdowns and isolations have taken their toll on most people throughout society. Indeed, it’s been a very tough time for artists, with limited chances to attend exhibitions and get their work out there. All the talk about quarantines and being locked inside sparked thoughts of the last time people had to do this. Looking back through history, this happened a lot during WWII. With mass bombings and constant attacks happening across the world, many people had to live indoors or stuck underground in bunkers.

It’s sparked a few thoughts, most notably those surrounding The Second World War and art. We’ve seen what a pandemic has done to the art world, but what was it like for painters and other artists when war was raging around them? The more you look into it, the more you realise just how interesting this period was for the art world. It was a very scary time, and there are a few key things we can look at – one of which still has an impact on modern times!

Captured artists

During The Second World War, many of the famous artists of the times found themselves captured or in terrible conditions. Naturally, it changed their life forever, but it didn’t stop them from creating masterpieces. In fact, captured artists or artists hiding in bunkers began painting pieces that reflected the true image of war. Some of these works are available today, providing a very different look from what we’ve seen in other mediums. It’s not too dissimilar from what’s happening now, with many modern artists creating work that reflects the realities of a pandemic.

Stolen art

Looting was a major issue in WWII. The Nazi forces would sweep through towns and cities, ransacking all the homes they could find. It led to an outrageous amount of art being stolen from properties, with original pieces being taken away from their rightful owners. This may not seem like much, but it has rocked the art world for years. To this day, you have organisations like the Mondex Corporation that literally spend their time hunting for looted pieces from WWII. There is still so much missing art out there, and it’s a shame that these pieces may never be recovered.


Finally, there was a huge problem with censorship during WWII. Artists had to create work that reflected what the government wanted people to see. In honesty, this was mainly a problem in Germany. If an artist created anything that spoke out against the government, they’d instantly be censored. Working around the censorships was a huge and dangerous struggle, but many artists still persevered in the hope of giving people something to be hopeful about.

The Second World War certainly had a big impact on art as we know it. It’s intriguing to look back at how things were and see what it might’ve been like to be an artist in those times.

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