British Museum looks at ‘The other side of the medal’ in new First World War exhibition

13 May 2014 | Kate Clements

As part of the centenary commemorations of the outbreak of the First World War, the British Museum is examining the German experience of the conflict through a display of art medals.

‘Kitchener’s Dream’, cast iron medal by Hans Lindl, 1915.

‘Kitchener’s Dream’, cast iron medal by Hans Lindl, 1915.

The other side of the medal: how Germany saw the First World War displays medals made by artists who lived and worked in Germany between 1914 and 1919.

A number of these medals were intended to influence popular opinion against Germany’s enemies. Others, however, provide a more general criticism about the futility of war and waste of human life.

German medallists were unique among the warring nations, both in the volume of medals they produced and in the breadth of styles they embraced. Some of the smaller struck medalets were mass-produced, but the larger cast medals, which mainly comprise this exhibition, were produced in comparatively small numbers. Meanwhile, very few British medals were produced in connection with the war.

German artists were affected by the war in different ways, and at least one of the medallists featured in the exhibition, Arnold Zadikow, fought on the Western Front.

He was initially against the war but was later swept up in the patriotic fervour that gripped the German nation. His medals show Death as a figure, holding Zeppelins on strings, or straddling a cannon smoking a cigarette as a city burns below.

In 1917 Zadikow was severely injured in the back and then captured by the British. He spent the remainder of the war interned in Brocton Prisoner of War Camp in Staffordshire, where he was given materials so that he could continue to sculpt.

The other side of the medal: how Germany saw the First World War will be open from 9 May to 23 November 2014.