Art in the trenches

In World War I millions of troops sat in trenches for more than three and a half years. It was by turns terrifying and boring. To ignore one feeling and allay the other, they made art.

Back in May I wrote about a quartet composed in a concentration camp.┬áThere’s a long tradition of war poets (I’m partial to Wilfred Owen, myself). But trench art is unique in that it used the materiel of war itself as the means of artistic expression. Many of these pieces were actually carved by soldiers in the trenches, but they were also produced by locals recycling the leftovers of the conflict.

These, for example, commemorate two French villages (Tahure and Hurlus) that were destroyed in the war:

Shell casings
Tangopaso [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Europeana 1914-1918 project has collected images of many items of trench art from museums around Europe, most sculpted out of shell casings because they piled up like snow drifts at any major battle site.

Knives:

Trench knife
Europeana 1914-1918 project [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Ornamental carvings:

Shell sculpture
Europeana 1914-1918 project [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
And even gongs:

Gong
Europeana 1914-1918 project [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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