Behind the Mask: World War I, Plastic Surgery, And the Modern Beauty Revolution
Crean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences
Department of History at Wilkinson College
Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
During the Great War, trenches exposed combatants' faces to sniper fire and flying shrapnel. In previous wars such wounds would have proven fatal. Now, with improved medical services, the wounded could be saved - but not always their faces. Crudely patched-together, men with "broken faces" were routinely ostracized. This lecture examines the humanitarian efforts of plastic surgeons to restore obliterated faces and sculptors to fashion prosthetic masks, while also considering postwar avant-garde modernism and the modern beauty culture, both of which evidence a visceral reaction to wartime unsighliness.
David M. Lubin is the Charlotte C. Weber Professor of Art at Wake Forest University and author of Grand Illusions: American Art and the First World War.