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Art Through Time: A Global View

Conflict and Resistance Compare: What Can Images of War Tell Us About Attitudes Toward War?


Artist / Origin: Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973)
Region: Europe
Date: 1937
Period: 1900 CE – 2010 CE
Material: Oil on canvas
Medium: Painting
Dimensions: H: 137 ½ in. (349.3 cm.), W: 305 ¾ in. (776.6 cm.)
Location: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain
Credit: © Estate of Pablo Picasso/ARS, NY. Courtesy of Art Resource, NY/Photo by Erich Lessing

Battle of Til-Tuba (Battle of the River Ulai) (detail)

Battle of Til-Tuba (Battle of the River Ulai) (detail)
Artist / Origin: Unknown artist(s), Nineveh, Iraq
Region: West Asia
Date: Neo-Assyrian, ca. 660–650 BCE
Period: 3000 BCE – 500 BCE
Material: Limestone relief
Medium: Sculpture
Dimensions: H: approx. 6 ft. (1.82 m.)
Location: The British Museum, London, UK
Credit: Courtesy of Werner Forman/Art Resource, NY

What can images of war tell us about attitudes toward war?

War, of course, is a subject that arouses intense emotion. In the ancient and early modern world, when art tended to be controlled by an elite ruling class, most images of war were about the glorification of the victor. But as artists gained the ability to work on subjects of their own choosing and art was made more accessible to the masses, “anti-war” images that focused on the darker side of armed conflict became a genre in their own right.

Questions to Consider

  • For what viewing context was each of these works created? How might that context have impacted the choice of subject matter and the manner in which it was represented?
  • Both of these images depict the violence and chaos of war, but to very different ends. How do you think the depiction of war in each speaks to the political circumstances and cultural values of the time and place in which they were produced?
  • What kinds of images of war have you been exposed to in your own life? How do these compare, both in terms of artistic form and function, to the images you see here? Do you think there is still a role for art in the politics of contemporary warfare?

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Art Through Time: A Global View


Produced by THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG. 2009.
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  • ISBN: 1-57680-888-2