The War to End All Art
HEGEL HAD forecast that science would push art from its central position in man's life to the margins of his existence. Indeed, science made the machines of global conflict and communication that displaced art. Losses in the First World War were terrible, life in the trenches was intolerable. Artillery and mortar shells, machine-guns and poison gas, barbed wire and mines, aeroplanes and tanks, these mechanical inventions cut down many millions of soldiers. 'As the generation of leaves,' Homer had made Glaucus say to Diomedes in the Iliad, 'so are the generations of men.' The siege of Troy was the Great War of Grecian myth, when the best men of Hellas died. The legend of a lost generation of the best men haunted the twenty-one-year period between the First and Second World Wars. 'Our generation becomes history,' Duff Cooper commented, 'instead of growing up.' Those who survived the slaughter of the machines felt guilty. As J. B. Priestley wrote, 'The generation to which I belong, destroyed between 1914 and 1918, was a great generation, marvellous in its promise. This is not self-praise, because those of us who are left know that we are the runts.'
The massacres wrought by the new technology led to an immersion in the human struggle and even a glorification of the machines of war. There was a revulsion from the values of faith and art. 'As people used to live in God,' Marcel Proust wrote, 'I live in the war.' In Italy, the founder of Futurism, Marinetti, declared, 'We will glorify war, the only true hygiene of the world.' The Futurists worshipped motion and power. Instead of God or nature, they adored the noise of the air engine, the speed of the racing car. Life