‘Frederick Coates: First World War Facial Architect’ by Dr. Marjorie Gehrhardt and Dr Suzanne Steele has just been published online in the Journal of War & Culture Studies. It will appear in print in January 2017.
The role of artists in the First World War is often understood only in terms of their artistic response to the conflict in paint, music, or sculpture. In fact, artists’ contributions were also engaged at an applied level, for example in the areas of propaganda, camouflage, and map-making. Beyond this, a small number participated in repairing the damage caused by the conflict. Frederick Coates, a British-born sculptor who emigrated to Canada in 1913, enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force and worked alongside surgeons and other artists to try and help give new features to facially injured combatants. Drawing upon unpublished photographs and scrapbooks, this article investigates Coates’s war experience and his contribution to the reconstruction of broken faces. Through a close examination of this ‘facial architect’, as Coates was called, this article gives an insight into the work performed in maxillofacial hospitals and underlines the importance of cross-national, multi-disciplinary collaboration.
The authors hope that the article will promote a far greater understanding of the artist’s engagement with the war effort beyond camouflage, map making, and other more conventional war artist roles, and will broaden the field from one that, until this research, has primarily focussed on Harold Gillies, Tonks, and Derwent Wood et al. The research has revealed networks of collaboration, influence, and convergence within the artistic and surgical operations during the Great War.