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Art That Made Us: Wars And Peace (S1EP7 BBC Two Thurs 19 May 2022)

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Wars and Peace, the seventh episode, examines the trauma of two world wars and their impact on art. Art is at war with the old imperial order, convention, and the very idea of what it means to be human in the first half of the twentieth century. This is a story about artists dealing with destruction, fighting back, and changing the Isles’ culture.

In this episode, actress Michelle Fairley performs WB Yeats’ poem Easter 1916, which contains the resonant phrase “a terrible beauty is born,” signalling a turning of the tide against the British empire; and contemporary war photographer Oliver Chanarin traces the story of William Orpen’s subversive protest image To The Unknown British Soldier In France.

With their bohemian lifestyles or utopian visions of a better future for the people, some artists rejected war. Artist Lachlan Goudie examines the Queen Mary ocean liner, a major interwar shipbuilding project that brought together Glaswegian engineering and art deco luxury.

As refugees flee Germany in the 1930s in preparation for a new war, comedian Eddie Izzard admires the radical modernist vision of the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, designed by a group of German and Russian Jewish émigrés, and photographer Hannah Starkey considers photographer Bill Brandt’s images of 1930s poverty, including the seminal Coal-Searcher Going Home To Jarrow.

With the Second World War bringing new horrors, artists grappled with Nazi atrocities. Film director Andrew MacDonald explores the controversy sparked by The Life & Death Of Colonel Blimp, a highly original take on the British war effort written and produced by his grandfather Emeric Pressburger.

Artist Ryan Gander examines how sculptor Barbara Hepworth tried to make sense of war by reaching for beauty in abstract human forms, and Denzil Forrester looks ahead to the post-colonial aftermath of war, signalled by Indian artist FN Souza’s suffering black Christ in his 1959 painting, Crucifixion.

Art That Made Us (8 x 60’) was commissioned for BBC Arts and BBC Two by Emma Cahusac, BBC Arts Commissioning Editor. It is a ClearStory and Menace Production and was Executive Produced by Russell Barnes, Denys Blakeway and Michael Jackson, and the Series Producer is Melanie Fall.

Airdate: Thursday 19 May 2022 at 9.00pm on BBC Two.

Season 1 Episode 7