Sunday, May 15, 2011

Art Slideshow

Liberty Leading the People (Eugene Delacroix, 1830)

Service on the Home Front (Louis Hirshman and William Tasker, 1942)

We Can Do It (J. Howard Miller, 1942)

Bring Him Home Sooner... Join the Waves (John Philip Falter, 1944)

Soldiers Saying Goodbye to women (Bettmann, 1950)

Speechless (Shirin Neshat, 1996)

A Kiss Goodbye (Unknown, 2004)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Burst of Joy (Sal Veder, 1973)

                Burst of Joy was taken by the Associated Press photographer Sal Veder at Travis Air Force Base on March 17, 1973, the day when the American soldiers returned home from the Vietnam War. After Vietnam won its independence from France with the financial help from the US, Vietnam was temporarily divided into anti-communist South Vietnam and communist North Vietnam (“The Vietnam War”). The US president John F. Kennedy sent in American troops to help South Vietnam, hoping to stop North Vietnam from taking control over South Vietnam and to eliminate the communist government in North Vietnam (“Battlefield: Timeline”). Eventually, President Nixon started a draft forcing soldiers to go to Vietnam, because not enough soldiers volunteered to go fight. Americans were extremely upset with that decision, because their family members were sent away to fight a war they did not want to be involved in. They were also angry that so many American soldiers were dying for a useless fight, because South Vietnam was clearly losing (“The Wars for Vietnam: 1945-1975”). Many soldiers were captured and put into camps; they starved and suffered (“Burst of Joy”). Eventually, students and organizations began protesting on college campuses; and in 1968, the whole country started an anti-war protest (The Wars for Vietnam: 1945-1975”). Finally, President Nixon agreed to withdraw American troops from Vietnam. By March 1973, all the American soldiers in Vietnam were released from the enemy camps and sent back home, marking the end of American involvement in the Vietnam War (“Burst of Joy”).
The Stirm family in this photo represents the families that reunited after years of separation. The teenage daughter in the center of the photograph is running to her father for a welcome-home hug, while the rest of the family follows; everyone is excited to be reunited. The girl represents the people of America, who were relieved that the unnecessary war has finally ended. After a long period of protesting, everyone in the country was thankful that the American soldiers have returned at last. While this scene symbolizes all the happy family reunions after the end of the war, it also serves as a warning for future government leaders, reminding them to reconsider before sending troops to support foreign countries. Lastly, the photo is a painful reminder of the innocent soldiers who fought and died in the Vietnam War to those families that will never reunite again.
“Battlefield: Timeline.” PBS. 10 May 2011. <>.
“Burst of Joy.” Famous Pictures: the Magazine. 28 April 2011. <>.
“The Wars for Vietnam: 1945-1975.” Vassar College. 10 May 2011. <>.
“Vietnam War.” Digital History. 10 May 2011. <>.

Guernica (Pablo Picasso, 1937)

                Pablo Picasso is one of the most well-known artists of the twentieth century. His most famous work, Guernica, is a reflection of the Spanish Civil War, when the German Nazi forces bombed the city of Guernica. During the Spanish Civil War, when the Republican forces fought against the Fascist forces lead by Francisco Franco, Picasso's colleagues and representatives of the government asked Picasso to produce a painting for the Spanish Pavilion of the 1937 World's Fair. Although Picasso was troubled by Franco and sympathized with the new democratic government, he did not respond to their offer, because he did not want to associate politics with art. However, the German bombing of Guernica totally changed Picasso's mind. With the help of Franco, German Nazi forces used Guernica as a testing ground for their newly developed weapons; more than 1,600 civilians. Picasso was stunned when he saw the photographs of the town in the news; he immediately painted Guernica. Through the painting, Picasso expressed his discontent with the existing political conflicts, his desire for peace, and his anti-war message to the rest of the world (“Guernica: Testimony of War”).
                In Guernica, Picasso directed his focus towards women and children.  He wanted to show how immoral the German Nazis and Franco were for aiming the bombs at innocent civilians. On the far left of the painting, a mother is holding the limp corpse of her child. She is wailing with her head thrown back, and her eyes are looking upward; perhaps she is asking God why the circumstances of her life are so miserable. The woman on the far right is also looking up. Her hands are reaching up as if she is pulled down by some force. There are many triangles around and above her, perhaps those represent fire created by the German bombs; the fire is devouring the woman. Picasso also put many hidden meanings in Guernica. The gazing bull and the suffering horse are two of the most famous features in the painting, because they lead to many contrasting interpretations. Some viewers say that they represent the fighting parties, the Republicans and the Fascists; some believe they stand for the struggle between males and females; and others think that they are both victims of the bombing. Picasso himself never defined the meaning of the bull and the horse, because he wanted the viewers to interpret the two symbols by themselves. By allowing independent interpretation and analysis, Picasso is encouraging the viewers to reconsider the purpose of war and question the necessity of destruction.
"Guernica: Testimony of War." PBS. 28 April 2011. <>.
“Guernica: Questions of Meaning.” PBS. 10 May 2011. <>.
Pablo Picasso. 28 April 2011. <>.             

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Mothers (Kathe Kollwitz, 1923)

Kathe Kollwitz is one of the most important female artists in the modern world. Although her revolutionary style brought her difficulties during her lifetime, she created a milestone for female artists by focusing on the sufferings of the underprivileged. The Mothers is part of a collection called “War.” In the collection, Kathe Kollwitz revealed the difficult years of World War I. She focused on the emotions of the women and children who were left behind and wanted her collection to be widely viewed. She wanted to show the people what they were ignoring (“The Mothers”).
In the woodcut The Mothers, Kollwitz showed the fear and grief shared by women and children during World War I. The women are crowded together and supporting each other, while the children hide under the wings of their mothers. They might be mourning the loss of a family member or a relative in the war. At the same time, the mothers seem to be creating a human shield for their children against an attack, which explains the title of this woodcut. The contrast between black and white, with the vast expanse of white surrounding the people in black, shows the solitude of the people who are left behind. They can only share their loneliness and grief with each other.
“Kathe Kollwitz.” National Museum of Women in the Arts. 28 April 2011. <>.
Kollwitz, Kathe. “The Mothers.” The Museum of Modern Art. 17 April 2011. <>.

Women of Britain Say "Go!" (E. J. Kealey, 1915)

                This is one of the many posters that encouraged men to enlist in the army during World War I. This poster, in particular, focuses on the women and children in the war. World War I is the first war where all members of the society participated, directly or indirectly, in the war. When the men were away, women worked in the factories and were hired into the army to serve as nurses and cooks. Although only men were allowed to go fight on the frontiers, women were active, patriotic, and passionate about the war. On the other hand, World War I was the first modern war where the armies intentionally aimed their attacks at local civilians. The “weak”—women, children, and elders—were the main targets of the attacks. As a result, the emotions of women during the time of warfare changed: they not only worried about the safety of the men in the armies, but are they were also concerned about their own lives (“The Home Front during the First World War”).  In text citation
                In the poster, a British woman and her two children look out their window and watch the army march away. The mother holds her older child’s hand over her chest, and the younger child tugs on his sister’s dress. Their eyes are filled with longing and anxiety, but at the same time, they are proud of the men fighting for the country. The top of the poster is the title “Women of Britain Say “Go!” with emphasis on the word “Go!” The artist E. J. Kealey is trying to encourage the men to go fight for the glory of Britain, bring justice to Belgium, and protect the country from any possible foreign attacks. Men would see this poster and feel the urge to protect the “weak” women and children; they would want to bring safety and peace to the women and children. Kealey is also suggesting that the women should stay home and take care of the children, instead of trying to go the frontier and fight side-by-side with the men. Kealey believes that women are responsible for the health and growth of their children, and for maintaining the household while the men are away.
“The Home Front during the First World War.” BBC. 27 April 2011. <>.

The Oath of the Horatii (Jacques-Louis David, 1784)

                In The Oath of the Horatii, Jacques-Louis David used a clean and simple style, instead of following the intricate aristocratic style of Rococo art, thereby marking the beginning of Neo-classical art. In the painting, David portrayed a scene where the Horatii of Rome brothers are swearing their loyalty to their country in front of their father, before going to a battle with the Curatii brothers of Alba. The people of Rome and Alba have chosen those two families to stop the continued warfare between the two countries. However, the two families are tied by marriage: Sabrina is the sister of the Curatii but also the wife of the oldest Horatii, while Camilla is sister of the Horatii and betrothed to one of the Curatii (“The Oath of the Horatii”).
                Because of the complicated connection between the two families, the women in the painting seem to be in great despair. While the men are determined to be heroes and bring glory to their country, the women are grieving over the safety of their loved ones. The young women at the far right of the painting are heartbroken, because their lovers are going to be killed, or at least significantly wounded, by their brother-in-laws. The mother of the Horatii, in the shadow next to the young women, is extremely worried about her sons, but also has to comfort her innocent infants. The young children, caressed by their mother, do not seem to fully understand what is going on, but they are still concerned about the lives of their older brothers. The women and children seem extremely vulnerable and emotional when compared to the men: the firm and muscular bodies of the men are standing upright in the geometrical room filled with harsh, straight lines, while the women are either sitting or crouching on the floor, looking almost “melted.” With that obvious contrast, David showed his viewers “the role of women in wars”: to be devastated by the dangers their men face.
“The Oath of the Horatii.” Aaron Art Prints. 27 April 2011. <>.
“The Oath of the Horatii.” Louvre. 27 April 2011. <>.