Dominic Green

Double Takes

Grand Illusions: American Art & the First World War


Oxford University Press 366pp £29.99 order from our bookshop

Not long after the outbreak of the First World War, Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso were walking along the Boulevard Raspail in Paris when they saw a camouflaged truck. ‘It was at night,’ Stein recalled with uncharacteristic clarity, ‘we had heard of camouflage but we had not yet seen it and Picasso amazed looked at it and then cried out, yes it is we who made it, that is cubism.’

Picasso must have been looking at one of the early works by France’s newly formed Section du Camouflage. In peacetime its commander, Lucien-Victoria Guirand de Scévola, had been a Symbolist working in pastels, but in war he modernised for the nation. ‘In order to deform totally the aspect of an object,’ he wrote, ‘I had to employ the means that Cubists used to represent it.’

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Moser’s book offers such a gripping account of a profoundly damaged human being, trapped in a cycle of repetition,… ,
    • 'Ideas that I’d thought were set down in full continue to smoulder ... this book is only a snapshot of some larger… ,
    • 'Full of invention which, at its most pedestrian, is eminently Victorian, and at its most unrestrained wildly imagi… ,
    • 'What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holla… ,
    • RT : One of my favourite literary magazines is celebrating 40 years this year. Here is the September edition of… ,
    • 'Now that the Thames is too fast-flowing to freeze, its spirit’s devotees ... have found other climes for their pri… ,
    • 'Bythell glowers past his till at a world in slow free fall.' on the travails of a second-hand book… ,