“Art changed for ever in August 1914.”*

Image: (Wikipedia) Manneken Pis (Dutch for ‘”Little Pissing Man”‘) is a landmark 61 cm (24 in) bronze fountain sculpture of a puer mingens in central Brussels(Belgium), depicting a naked little boy urinating into the fountain’s basin. It was designed by Jérôme Duquesnoy the Elder (1570–1641), and put in place in 1618 or 1619. The current statue is a replica which dates from 1965. The original is kept in the Brussels City Museum. Manneken Pis is the best-known symbol of the people of Brussels. It also embodies their sense of humour (called zwanze in Brussels’ dialect) and their independence of mind.”

*Jonathan Jones wrote for The Guardian of 3 Oct 2013:

“…Born Georg Ehrenfried Gross in 1893, he anglicised his name as a protest against German nationalism in the first world war, in which he briefly served. His friend Helmut Herzfeld became, in similar fashion, John Heartfield. Both were turned into Marxist revolutionaries by the monstrosity of the war. (George) Grosz was arrested in 1919 for participating in the Spartacist revolt led by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht.

One quick way to see how the first world war changed art is to compare two of the most renowned works of the 20th century. The Dance by Henri Matisse was painted in the prosperous years before the war, in 1909-10. It is a thrilling, liberating, sensual masterpiece – yet deeply civilised, even in its primitivism.

By contrast, in 1917 Marcel Duchamp exhibited a urinal in an art gallery. This “readymade” called Fountain contemptuously urinates on the great tradition of western art. It reduces civilisation to a public toilet. It is no coincidence that it was first exhibited while so-called civilised nations were sacrificing their youth on the killing fields of the first world war.

Grosz and Duchamp were both, in their way, dadaists. This nihilistic art movement started in Zurich in 1916. It spat on war-torn Europe’s claim to be civilised. Its angriest wing was Berlin dada. Cut-up newspapers and grotesque caricatures were hurled by the young Berlin dadaists at a social order they saw as murderous and cynical…”

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