Peacebuilding Through the Visual Arts

  • Jolyon MitchellEmail author
Part of the Rethinking Peace and Conflict Studies book series (RCS)


In this chapter Mitchell explores the ambiguities of building peace through the visual arts. He observes that ‘war and visual arts’ has a far-larger existing literature than the scholarship about representing peace visually, an observation that holds true for the arts more broadly. Discussing a number of well-known pieces of art by the likes of Paul Nash and Otto Dix, Käthe Kollwitz and Pablo Picasso, as well as less well-known work, Mitchell analyses the ways in which artists can bear witness to the costs of violent conflict and also, through their creations, extend the moral imagination, and thereby contribute to peacebuilding. As Mitchell suggests, no picture can wish away war, but it can raise questions about the wisdom and effects of conflict, alongside depicting the long and often difficult journey towards a sustainable peace. This is complemented by a consideration of how art can be used to express powerful emotions such as grief and anger, as well as develop imaginaries of peace. Through this chapter Mitchell argues that the visual arts can both represent and contribute to building peace.


Visual arts Artists Peacebuilding War Bear witness 

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of EdinburghEdinburghScotland, UK

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