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As conflicts rage around the world and the hundredth anniversary of the First World War (1914–18) and the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War II (1940–45) are commemorated, this exhibition of prints, photographs, paintings, and sculpture undertakes a cross-cultural examination of major civil and global wars of the modern era. Selected exclusively from the Zimmerli Art Museum’s wide-ranging collection of American, European, Japanese, and Russian and Soviet art, Picturing War explores artistic responses to different conditions of military conflict with a particular emphasis on depictions of soldiers and civilians.
War has inspired artistic expression since ancient times, whether celebrating victories led by gifted warriors, eulogizing the dead, or mourning the loss of homes and loved ones. The works in the exhibition, beginning with Winslow Homer’s Civil War (1861–65) illustrations for Harper’s Weekly, demonstrate how artists documented and interpreted the changing realities of war and its effects on people and places throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The increased scale of fighting and development of new weapons required ever-larger military forces and resulted in previously unimaginable numbers of dead and wounded. As greater numbers of men were called to serve, both the experience of individual soldiers and the lives of those on the home front became more frequently portrayed in art. Artists also served as soldiers or were sent to the front specifically to document the most current action, bringing a new immediacy to their work.
Presenting the work of more than fifty artists including Théophile Steinlen, Kazimir Malevich, and Edward Steichen, Picturing War exhibits works inspired both by contemporary events and by the aftermath and memories of war incidents. The works on display collectively acknowledge the crucial role artists have long played in recording, disseminating, and interpreting both the mundane and the unprecedented situations that arise in wartime.
Organized by Christine Giviskos, Associate Curator of European Art, with assistance from Donna Gustafson, Mellon Liaison for Academic Programs and Curator; Marilyn Symmes, Director of the Morse Research Center for Graphic Arts and Curator of Prints and Drawings; and Julia Tulovsky, Associate Curator of Russian and Soviet Art.
To learn more about this exhibition, watch this NJTV video that includes a conversation with exhibition curator Christine Giviskos, Associate Curator of European Art.
Kazimir Malevich (Russian, 1878-1935)
At Vistula the Germans Cursed Their Luck, and Then, by God, They Ran Amuck!, 1914
21 5/8 x 14 3/16 in. (55 x 36 cm)
Collection Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers
Museum Purchase, Class of 1959 Fund
Photo Peter Jacobs