As my fascination and exploration of war art continues, and I discover one powerful artwork after the other, this piece is one of the earliest and is considered as one of the most impactful of art pieces of its time.
The Apotheosis of War (above) was painted by Vasily Vereshchagin in 1871 as an aftermath of a war. The painting in oil on canvas depicts death, destruction and devastation symbolized by skulls, vultures, barren trees and deserted town in the background. The painter inscribed on the frame: ‘Dedicated to all great conquerors, past, present and those yet to come.’
A closer look:
Vasily Vershchegin was one of the most celebrated war painter of his times in Europe and Russia. In an exhibition in Berlin in 1881, a German Filed Marshal visited his exhibition. As Vasily brought him to this painting, the Field Marshal did not like how war was depicted in the painting. He issued orders to his soldiers to not see the exhibition. Austrians and his fellow countrymen Russians were also deeply offended. He was banned to exhibit and even to publish pictures of his art in books. In anger and frustration he burnt down three of his paintings.
Vasily wrote on war: “Does war have two sides – one that is pleasant and attractive and the other that is ugly and repulsive? No, there is only one war, that attempts to force the enemy to kill, injure, or take as many people prisoner as possible, while the stronger adversary beats the weaker until the weaker pleads for mercy.”
Horrors of war obsessed him. “I loved the sun all my life, and wanted to paint sunshine. When I happened to see warfare and say what I thought about it, I rejoiced that I would be able to devote myself to the sun once again. But the fury of war continued to pursue me,”
He travelled far and wide, and painted avidly on nature, beauty, humanity, miseries and oppression. In 1884 he travelled to India and painted ‘The Mausoleum of Taj Mahal’.
The painting not only reflects Taj’s beauty but also succeeds to capture the tranquility the monument exudes when seen in real life.
What a therapeutic closing of this blog !