Maurice Prost: The Resilient Body

The First World War mobilized millions of soldiers from all social classes and occupations, and artists were no exception. Albert Dalimier, the French Minister of Fine Arts, stated that the artist should be as pugnacious in battle as he is facing his work. Writers such as Apollinaire and Cendrars, painters and sculptors also suffered from severe injury.

Recorded neurological wounds among artist combatants were scarce but led to intense modifications of artistic practice, even when the wound did not affect the techne – the pragmatic knowledge that allows the completion of a work.

One such intense modification is the robotic arm of the French sculptor, Maurice Prost. In 1914 Prost received a bullet wound to the left arm that resulted in the amputation of the lower third, and due to a neuroma was unable to use a prosthetic replacement.

After rehabilitation and becoming a drawing teacher in an attempt to adapt to his handicap, Prost took up sculpture on hard stones – one of the more challenging artistic techniques. In 1927 Prost ordered a tailor-made device to compensate for his handicap and regained artistic autonomy.
He went on to produce many sculptures, such as the famous Le Gorille Femelle.

Read more about Prost and other artists affected by the Great War in Creative Minds in the Aftermath of the Great War: Four Neurologically Wounded Artists (Maingon C, Tatu L.) here.

An article by Jonathan Steffen on the Neurological disorders suffered by the writer Pavese can be found in the same book.

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