French Class Explores WWI ‘No Man’s Land’


On September 18, Adeleen Brown’s French IV class visited the Smith College Museum of Art to explore the exhibit of World War I prints called “No Man’s Land.” At the museum, students viewed the drawings and read their descriptions and then chose a theme related to the war. Then they chose one drawing that exemplified their theme and described it in French to their classmates, who asked them follow-up questions.


“One student read the description on how artists at the time were not allowed to draw or depict dead soldiers since countries needed to maintain positive propaganda,” said Brown. However, she said, some artists found ways around this by drawing broken, burned, or dead trees and buildings to depict the horrors of war. “By seeing multiple nationalities on both sides of World War I drawing daily images of the war,” Brown continued, “the students can better imagine what the soldiers experienced and suffered and ultimately how the ‘Great War’ led to the loss of 16 million military and civilians.”

Another student chose a drawing from the series Dance of Death, pictured above, in which the artist depicts Death personified reaching out for a soldier and keeping him from being rescued. “The drawings bring the concept of World War I and what it represents for the world, especially as 2018 is the centennial of the end of WWI, closer to home for the students,” Brown said.

Students saw drawings from American, French, and German soldiers. They left the museum with an understanding of what it was like to serve in the military during that early 20th century conflict, and of the impact the war had on society. The visit was part of a lesson on the Great War that also included watching the film “Joyeux Noel,” a drama depicting the true story of an impromptu cease fire on Christmas Eve after soldiers began singing Christmas carols.