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Teaching the First World War
Teaching the First World War

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3 Primary source analysis – war art

Students may be less familiar with First World War art than they are with poetry from the conflict, but artworks can also provide useful insights into how the war was experienced, represented and remembered.

Activity 1 What questions can we ask of war art?

Timing: Allow around 5 minutes

Thinking back to the questions about war poems, what questions do you think students could fruitfully ask when analysing artworks?


Here are some questions a student could ask, which are similar to those used in earlier activities.

  • Who was the artist? Soldier or civilian? Officer or private?
  • When was it painted? What was the historical context when this picture was painted?
  • Why and for what purpose might the artist have painted it?
  • Where was the painting first exhibited? How did people respond to it?
  • What does this painting depict? What can it tell us about the experience and/or memory of the war? How useful is it as a primary source?
  • What are the limitations of this painting as a primary source?

The first example of war art is covered in the next section.