“Doomed Youth”: The Poetry and the Pity of World War I

Tuesday, June 22, 1999
Sunday, September 26, 1999

This exhibition complemented the display of John Walker’s paintings about World War I. Official government recruiting posters from the early years of the war, as well as a selection from the Center’s prints, drawings, and paintings by artists such as C.R.W. Nevinson, Paul Nash, Duncan Grant, Frank Brangwyn, James McBey, and Joseph Pennell, provided the backdrop to the works of the featured “soldier poets.”

The poetic response to the war reflected a range of moods from the early sentimentality and patriotic ardor of Rupert Brooke to the cynicism, resignation, and the angry depiction of life in the trenches by Wilfred Own, Siegfriend Sassoon, Robert Graves, David Jones, and others. Civilian life in Britain was examined, particularly the roles played by women on the home front and at the battlefield. The annotated first editions, manuscripts, posters, and ephemeral material were selected from libraries at Yale and from a number of private collections.

John Copley, Recruits (detail), 1915, lithograph on moderately thick, moderately textured, cream antique laid paper, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund, © The Estate of John Copley

The relatively new medium of film played a growing role in both military and civilian life during the period of World War I. A short selection of newsreel footage was shown in the exhibition, along with screenings of the films The Battle of the Somme (1916) and The Battle of Ancre (1917).

The exhibition was organized by Elisabeth Fairman, Curator of Rare Books and Archives.