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Behind the Mask: WWI, Plastic Surgery, and the Modern Beauty Revolution

Monday, October 09, 2017,
  • Location: Cohen Memorial Hall • 1220 21St Ave S • Nashville, TN 37212
  • Room: 203

The Norman L. and Roselea J. Goldberg Lecture in Art History
David M. Lubin
Charlotte C. Weber Professor of Art
Wake Forest University


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 and transport services, the wounded could be saved--but not always their faces as well. Crudely patched together and sent back to the front or to their families, 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 the modern beauty culture that arose simultaneously with and perhaps in reaction to wartime unsightliness.