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Distributed for Reaktion Books

Beyond the Battlefield

Women Artists of the Two World Wars

World Wars I and II changed the globe on a scale never seen before or since, and from these terrible conflicts came an abundance of photographs, drawings, and other artworks attempting to make sense of the turbulent era. In this generously illustrated book, Catherine Speck provides a fascinating account of women artists during wartime in America, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and their visual responses to war, both at the front lines and on the home front.
In addition to following high-profile artists such as American photographer Lee Miller, Speck recounts the experiences of nurses, voluntary aides, and ambulance drivers who found the time to create astonishing artworks in the midst of war zones. She also describes the feelings of disempowerment revealed in the work done by women distant from the conflict. As Speck shows, women artists created highly charged emotional responses to the threats, sufferings, and horrors of war—the constant fear of attack, the sorrow of innocent lives destroyed, the mass murders of people in concentration camps, and the unimaginable aftermath of the atomic bombs. The first book to explore female creativity during these periods, Beyond the Battlefield delivers an insightful and meditative examination of this art that will appeal to readers of art history, war history, and cultural studies.

280 pages | 130 color plates, 26 halftones | 7 1/2 x 9 4/5 | © 2014

Art: Art--General Studies

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“Catherine Speck’s new book is a gem. Beautifully illustrated, well-researched, and readable, it sheds light on the role of women near the front lines and on the home front during both World Wars. The reader will find much that is new in this valuable contribution to art and social history. Especially interesting is the authors discovery of many talented but little known artists.”

Bruce Cole, former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center

“In addition to chronicling high-profile artists like American photographer Lee Miller, who served as a war correspondent for Vogue during the Second World War, Speck recounts the experiences of nurses, voluntary aides, and women on the home front as reported in their own words and pictures.” 

Art in America

Table of Contents


1. Women on the Home Front in the First World War

2. Behind the Front

3. War’s End and Its Scarred Land

4. Responding to Yet Another War

5. Women on the Home Front in the Second World War

6. Close Encounters

7. Peace at Last

Artists’ Biographies


Select Bibliography


Photo Acknowledgements


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