Grand Illusions: American Art and the First World War

About the Author

David M. Lubin is the Charlotte C. Weber Professor of Art at Wake Forest University. A former critic for Rolling Stone, he is the author of several books including Picturing a Nation: Art and Social Change in Nineteenth-Century America and Shooting Kennedy: JFK and the Culture of Images.

Grand Illusions: American Art and the First World War

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David M. Lubin

A vivid, engaging account of the artists and artworks that sought to make sense of America's involvement in World War I, Grand Illusions takes readers on a compelling journey through the major historical events leading up to and beyond the country's entry into the First World War to discover the vast and pervasive influence of the conflict on American visual culture. David M. Lubin presents a highly original examination of the era's fine arts and entertainment to show how they ranged from patriotic idealism to profound disillusionment.


In stylishly written chapters, Lubin assesses the war's impact on two dozen painters, designers, photographers, and filmmakers from 1914 to 1933. He considers well-known figures such as Marcel Duchamp, John Singer Sargent, D. W. Griffith, and the African American outsider artist Horace Pippin while resurrecting forgotten artists such as the mask-maker Anna Coleman Ladd, the sculptor Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, and the combat artist Claggett Wilson. The book is liberally furnished with illustrations from epoch-defining posters, paintings, photographs, and films. Armed with rich cultural-historical details and an interdisciplinary narrative approach, David Lubin creatively upends traditional understandings of the Great War's effects on the visual arts in America.

  • Hardcover
  • 7 x 10 inches
  • 384 pages, 149 halftones
  • Published: 2016

Editorial Reviews

"What Paul Fussell's The Great War and Modern Memory did for literature, David Lubin's Grand Illusions does for the painting, photography, sculpture, and film inspired by the First World War. Astutely guiding his readers through the treacherous landscape where stubborn romantic myths befog the ghastly realities of modern warfare, Lubin powerfully demonstrates the Great War's lasting legacy in all the visual arts." —David M. Kennedy, author of Over Here: The First World War and American Society

"A fascinating, richly illustrated examination of how this supposedly 'forgotten' war figured in the American imagination." —David Reynolds, author of The Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century

"The most thoughtful and imaginative book ever written about the art of the First World War." —Alexander Nemerov, author of Wartime Kiss: Visions of the Moment in the 1940s

"The literature of American art history and popular culture is much enriched by Lubin's thoughtful work." —Booklist

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