The pounding of shells, the mines, the death traps, the massive, blind destruction, the acrid stench of rotting flesh, the communal graves, the charred bodies, and the fear. These are the images of war.
War has changed over the centuries from battles of legions of ironclad soldiers enveloped in glimmering armor fighting for what they believe to senseless acts of guerrilla warfare against those too coward to be draft-dodgers. Those who were there, who experienced the terror first hand were deeply effected and changed forever. In their retinas, images of blood and gore are burned for the rest of their life.It has been said that there is no point in the “pretty, flowery, pastel” art that makes a person feel good.
It doesnt have any use, for the artist or the observer. Art is supposed to deal with emotion. It is one thing that helps people heal, not only by seeing, but also by doing. Art is able to take all the bad emotions, all the hurts and pains and lets you express them.It is no wonder that many that have seen the destruction of war have turned to art. You dont see any “pretty pictures” of war. Id like you to find one pretty aspect of war.
There is none, so therefore, war, as a subject for art, is hardly ever pretty. The stories that they write, the paintings that they paint, the pictures that they take, are usually horrific scenes. Only rarely do we see pictures of triumph (i.e. raising the flag at Iwo Jima) but those scenes take place only after the aftermath.
It is also no wonder that many war artists actually use their talent only during and after war. They use their art as a place for catharsis. Only after they are done healing the torment of the war, they can be done with art. One artist in World War One, Braque, fought in 1914, a year later he was wounded.
During his convalescence, he painted. A year later he returned to his home. He left not a single drawing or canvas alluding to what he had been through and no representation of the war is present in his work.
He made himself a fresh start, like others did. Many painted and drew what they saw and lived through. From the sketchbooks of pencil drawings done at the warfront to the canvases painted on returning home, theirs is an intense and accurate testimony. Yet, many have gone forgotten. This is probably due to the painful memories they conjure up. This is why they have not much been looked at once the war was over.One of my most favorite poems, is an untitled poem by James Monroe Meserve.
Meserve was a solider in the American Civil war. In this poem, he his writing home to his family. He talks of his wife and children being his guardian angels. I always cry when I read this poem because it is a sweet and loving poem about this mans undying love, even after his death. Yet, Meserve still is able to have an underlying fact of the dark truth of war. He writes:When my lonely post I’m walkingIn some distant grove or glen,O, will not the wand’ring angelsWatch their loving father then?Far thee well, my loving Addie,Ah, the word doth take my breath,No — my heart is clinging to thee,As the ivy clings in death.Meserve makes his love known for his family, but if you read between the lines, you can hear his pain and anguish of being away from them.
He went off to war to fight for what he believed in. He has already lost his two sons to the war and now he was joining in to help. I think in this way, writing home is the only way that he can vent his fear. He fears that he might be forgotten as just another one of the millions who fought and died in the war.
By writing this poem he is not forgotten.Ethel Lynn Eliot Beers was another Civil War Veteran, but she wasnt fighting on the front lines. She was a nurse.
In her bleak poem “Across the Lines,” she tells the story of ol Charlie Coleman. She touches on two important issues of war. First, Coleman is a man killed in battle.
She explains that his side won the fight, but asks was it worth it, considering he was dead and just left behind. This brings up the old issue that is a moral victory more important that a human life. Is it right to sacrifice somebody, for the good of somebody else.
Secondly, she also touches on the issue of the honor of war. She says, “”Courage, Charlie! Twist it tighter, The tourniquet about your arm; Be a man — don’t faint and shiver, When the lifetide trickles warm.””She is showing how so many boys, not men, are pushed into fighting, even when they arent ready to fight, then they criticize the boys more when they cant fight.By the time of World War One, artists were no longer trying to put a pretty, sweet spin of their works. Artists were giving plain forthright depictions of the blood and gore of the war. In C.R.
W. Nevinsons The Harvest of Battle, he tells the truth about war wounds. In this painting, men from bot sides, German prisoners and exhausted British solider, make their way back to the trenches after a horrific battle. They help each other carrying the seriously wounded on makeshift stretchers. In this picture, he tells the truth about war.
It is no longer the honorable duty of each man. It had turned into senseless fighting and immense devastation. It was a mechanized war with trajectory shells and bullets, toxic cloud of chlorine gas, barbed wire entanglements. In this picture, he shows the destruction and death of war.
Another artist of World War One was Eric Heckel. In his painting Zwei Verwundete, he shows the face and boy of two wounded soldiers. The drawing cut out of wood doesnt show any subtlety. It is either light or dark. Keeping with his subject, it is primitively brutal and shows the black and white, the contrasts of war.
From early times, fighting in a war had been honorable, and what every man had wanted to do. But after World War Two, and the Korean War, fighting had stop being an honor and it became a shame. By the time of the Vietnam War, it was almost more honorable to be a draft dodger than to actually fight. As soldiers came back from war, they were degraded for going to it. They experienced one of the most pointless wars in American History, and they suffered through it like any other soldier of any other war did.
But they werent treated the same. The soldiers did not want to be there, probably more than the protestors did not want them to be there. The movie, Good Morning, Vietnam, shows this plight of the soldiers.
Robin Williams plays a radio disc jock and comedian for the army. He didnt want to be transferred to Vietnam, but when he was he tried to make the best of it. When he started to play music that was “unacceptable” his superiors tried to stop him. What this man did, through the simple art of comedy, he lifted the spirits of all of the soldiers that could hear him. This movie showed that war was no longer the glorified thing that it used to be.I think that the one thing in life that effects everyone so immensely is war.
Just think, as they were voting for the man of the century, that almost all of the men nominated had to do with a war somehow. War effects everyone, from the people at the frontlines to the people at home, waiting for the war to end. With newspapers showing even the goriest pictures on the front page, people who are sitting at home can experience some parts of the war.
But it is only through art that we can heal the pains of war. I think the only short phrase that sums up what war means is a classic line. War is literally hell.