‘Beyond the Battlefield: Women Artists of the Two World Wars’
On February 6th 2015, on a late opening Friday night, people packed into the Art Gallery of South Australia to see and hear Professor Cathy Speck’s new book ‘Beyond the Battlefield: Women Artists of the Two World Wars’ launched by the gallery director, Nick Mitzevich. Nick spoke of Cathy’s pioneering research on women artists, and her sustained focus on gender and the representation of war. In her new book Cathy interrogates gendered ideas of the spatial zones related to war and wartime to explore how women artists responded to the conflict during the two Wars. Through meticulous art historical detail Cathy examines the work of 62 selected artists from Britain, the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, and presents a vivid gendered account of how they viewed and made sense of this period through artistic expression. As well as works by familiar artists (such as Margaret Preston, Grace Cossington-Smith, Nora Heysen, Lee Miller and Laura Knight) Cathy presents works by lesser known women artists (Grace Ravlin and Phyllis Keyes), bringing a much broader lens to this historical period. This book provides an invaluable narrative of shifting gender roles between the Wars, of changing roles between the home front and the front, and the ways different artistic technologies (painting, photography, sculpture) were used to document and record these experiences.