ART: War Paint

As we remember our fallen soldiers this holiday, we should also remember all of the ways that war affects mankind. It is our greatest failure as fellow human beings to have to come to destroying one another, yet sometimes it seems necessary, if not a common part of human tradition. Out of this darkness there are always creatives that document the times and make us reflect on the events that direct our converging cultures. The following is a collection of art and photography inspired directly by our struggle with death and destruction on large scales.


Guernica, by Pablo Picasso was created after the bombing of Guernica, in northern Spain by German and Italian warplanes under the command of the Spanish Nationalist forces in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War. Guernica depicts the tragedies of war and the suffering it inflicts on innocent civilians. It was created to draw attention to the conflict, which I had never heard of until learning more about the painting.

Prado_-_Los_Desastres_de_la_Guerra_-_No__74_-_Esto_es_lo_peor! PR4266~1

Some say Spanish painter and printmaker Francisco Goya created the print series The Disasters of War as a visual protest against the violence in Spain and France in the early 1800s. Although Goya did not make known his intentions when creating the plates, and the work would not be printed until 35 years after the painter’s death, the work seems to illustrate Goya’s views, or least his knowledge of the setting. The courage, inhumanity, and everything in between created by conflict is captured with this set of 82 prints, sparing us none of the depravity and heroics man is capable of.


“We turn deserts to the blooming land” and “They turn the cities to a desert”. Soviet propaganda art displaying American destructiveness versus Soviet progress. Soviet progress today is at 0%.


American propaganda art for the recruitment of soldiers for WWI. Bold text and a nudge at your ego, as you had to ask yourself what constitutes a “real man.”


Gassed by John Singer Sargent captures soldiers after a mustard gas attack during WWI.


Created by artist Norman Wilkinson, Dazzle camouflage covered ships with complex paint patterns using geometric shapes in contrasting colors, which interrupt and intersect each other. The technique was not necessarily proven effective in deterring hits by enemies by misleading and confusing them, but it did create interesting, large scale geometric designs, and inspired unique compositions in the work of Edward Wadsworth.


From the darker side of American history, an insensitive portrayal of the Japanese enemy.


This nazi poster makes a confusing case for who needs an ass kicking most.


This photograph by Robert Capa of a U.S soldier as he makes his way ashore under German fire captures movement, action, and a moment full of possibilities. The image was taken during the first wave of the D-Day invasion on Omaha Beach on the coast of Normandy, France, in 1944. The photographer was under the same attack and pressure as the soldiers. The motion blur of the shot gives us further evidence of everyone’s precarious position.


This picture by Nick Ut was a World Press Photo of the Year in 1972. In Trangbang, South Vietnam, in 1972, Phan Thi Kim Phuc (center) flees from the scene where South Vietnamese planes have mistakenly dropped napalm. Nick captures the image after the girl pulls her burning clothes off.


Hanaa Malallah‘s art features what she refers to as a ‘ruins technique’ involving the burning of canvases and materials. During sanctions, it was difficult to find materials to make art with and found objects becomes the material of necessity. Hanaa uses debris salvaged from the Baghdad streets bombed out by US air strikes.


Steve Mumford, The Accused, is a representation of several of the players on the ground in the current battle between terrorism and the Western world. Steve has visited Iraq periodically to document his subjects since Saddam lost power of the country in 2003.