The Art of talking about Art – 7: W for War

Mankind is at it again. War is in the air, yet again. Then again, it’s a fact of life that no day goes by in this world when some part of the world is not seeing war. And on that warring note, let’s take a fresh look at six well-known paintings that document what must be one of mankind’s favourite pastimes.

“You and I have passed through many births, Arjuna. You have forgotten, but I remember them all.” – Quote from the Bhagvad Gita

Mankind is at it again. War is in the air, yet again. Then again, it’s a fact of life that no day goes by in this world when some part of the world is not seeing war. And on that warring note, let’s take a fresh look at six well-known paintings that document what must be one of mankind’s favourite pastimes.

1. The Battle of San Romano

Set of three paintings by the Florentine painter Paolo Uccello showcasing events of the Battle of San Romano between Florentine and Sienese forces in 1432. They are significant as revealing the development of linear perspective in early Italian Renaissance painting. The paintings are in egg tempera on wooden panels, each over 3 metres long. The panels were commissioned by a member of the Bartolini Salimbeni family in Florence sometime between 1435 and 1460.

Sidelight: Egg tempera, commonly known as tempera, is a permanent, fast-drying painting medium consisting of colored pigments mixed with a water-soluble binder medium (usually a glutinous material such as egg yolk or some other size).

2. The Surrender of Breda

Spanish Golden Age painter Diego Velázquez painted the Surrender of Breda. It was completed during the years 1634–35, and inspired by Velázquez’s visit to Italy with Ambrogio Spinola, the Genoese general who conquered Breda on June 5, 1625. It is considered one of Velázquez’s best works.

Golden nugget: The Spanish Golden Age (Spanish: Siglo de Oro, Golden Century) is a period of flourishing in arts and literature in Spain, coinciding with the political rise and decline of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty. It begins no earlier than 1492, with the end of the Reconquista (Reconquest), the sea voyages of Christopher Columbus to the New World, and the publication of Antonio de Nebrija’s Gramática de la lengua castellana (Grammar of the Castilian Language). The last great writer of the period, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, died in 1681, and his death usually is considered the end of El Siglo de Oro in the arts and literature.

3. Consequences of War, also known as Horror of war

Oil paint on canvas painted between 1638-1639 by Peter Paul Rubens. It was painted for Ferdinando II de’ Medici. Although commissioned by an Italian, art historians characterize both the work and the artist as Flemish Baroque. It serves as a commentary on a European continent ravaged by the Thirty Years’ War.

‘Mars, the god of war, marches from the Temple of Janus encouraged by the Fury of War, Alecto, while Venus attempts to restrain him. A woman on the left personifies unhappy Europe; on the right, Alecto is accompanied by two monsters who symbolise the Plague and Famine; beneath are personifications of Harmony, Fecundity, Maternity and Charity, all who thrive under peace.’

4. The Death of General Wolfe

A well-known oil painting by Anglo-American artist Benjamin West depicting the death of British General James Wolfe during the 1759 Battle of Quebec and the Seven Years’ War. The painting was completed in 1770. West made an additional and nearly identical painting of the same scene for King George III in 1771.

5. Guernica

Guernica is a mural-sized oil painting on canvas by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso completed by June 1937. The painting, which uses a palette of gray, black, and white, is known as one of the most moving and powerful anti-war paintings in history. Standing at 3.49 metres (11 ft 5 in) tall and 7.76 metres (25 ft 6 in) wide, the large mural shows the suffering of people, animals, and buildings wrenched by violence and chaos.

The painting is believed to be a response to the bombing of Guernica, a Basque Country village in northern Spain, by German and Italian warplanes at the request of the Spanish Nationalists. Upon completion, Guernica was displayed around the world in a brief tour, becoming famous and widely acclaimed, and believed to have helped bring worldwide attention to the Spanish Civil War.

You can buy a giclee re-print of the painting on canvas here.

6.The Mahabharata

And finally, six is something different on something ancient, something more modern, something more provocative, something thought-provoking, something special, and something so Hussain. The Mahabharata (from the Epic series) by MF Hussain.

It took MF Husain just two months to paint the 29 canvases that make up his famous Mahabharata series.

Previous Editions:

Update: We have compiled the entire series of blog posts on The Art of Talking About Art in one place. To read other editions of the series, click here.

Avinash Subramaniam

Avinash has been an advertising writer, fiction writer, poetry writer, freelance writer and serial wronger. Other roles he has been in include those of an editor, brand builder, and teacher. His interests include advertising, scrabble, body building, chess, cinema, making money, reading, internet culture, cricket, photography. To hear him air his thoughts, follow him on Twitter @armchairexpert.

0 Comments

No comments!

There are no comments yet, but you can be first to comment this article.

Leave reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shares