History through Art
Updated: Oct 26
Man has the ability to memorize experiences and through these they generate ways of acting in the face of future events, what we call learning. Collective memory stores historical knowledge that, although are not individually lived experiences, are present in the group and over time are transformed into a culture. An element that has proved to be key social memory is Art in all his forms, that has been present since the beginning of time. We see countless examples of this especially in painting.
Looking at Alan Harris's paintings, many of them with nostalgic images of the past, all those artists who show part of our history in their work come to mind.
Along the Grand Surrey Where we used to live
Alan's work is a record of his experiences, in his early works where he shows the empty streets and the stray cats in the postwar London, Even with the vestiges of the war in the destroyed walls, the pollution, the poverty under a sky that preserves the brightness of the moon among the smoke and despair as if showing the light at the end of the tunnel
In his last works Alan shows a different face of the big cities, where the streets are full of activity , bright lights reflected on the streets with incesant trafic and bring us the bustle of modern life where history is always alive always changing...
Francisco de Goya (1746 – 1828) stands out in his historical contribution. This Spanish painter, who, witnessing the Spanish Cicil War, uses his art to document the reality of his time.
Goya not only lives but also judges and documents the barbarism that occurred in Spain both in its social and political aspects. Goya as a court painter portrays many important men and women of his time but also documents the social problem, the modernization that France brings to Europe and the bloody consequences of the Spanish war against Napoleon Bonaparte, among other things.
"The Third of May 1808 or Los fusilamientos del tres de mayo is a painting completed in 1814, it was commissioned by the provisional government of Spain at Goya's suggestion. The painting's content, presentation, and emotional force secure its status as a groundbreaking, archetypal image of the horrors of war. The Third of May 1808 marks a clear break from convention. Diverging from the traditions of Christian art and traditional depictions of war, it has no distinct precedent, and is acknowledged as one of the first paintings of the modern era"
(The Third of May 1808, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia; 12:00, October 23, 2021; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Third_of_May_1808)
PAUL NASH (1889-1946) is Considered one of the main British artists of the first half of the 20th century. He shows in his work the disastrous effect of War on nature, the destruction and violence on the landscape are seen in a surrealist projection that does not need human figures to communicate the disastrous consequences of the war for the human being. This English painter participates in the First World War as a soldier, where he suffers physical and psychological damage that will accompany him until his death. Participates again in the second world war hired by the British government. His works Battle of Germany and Battle of Great Britain are a historical document of his time. Nash is committed to the modernist movement and connects art with the rest of Europe, being a fervent admirer of Giacometti and founder of the "Unit One" group where he integrates artists from all over Europe
Battle of Germany
Battle of Germany was the last painting that Nash completed under his official employment for the War Artists' Advisory Committee (WAAC). The commission had stated that the committee would like a sequel to Nash's Battle of Britain (1941), a picture that would depict a flying bomb.
The colossal painting made by the French in the first world war
I can't finish this post without mentioning one of the most incredible paintings made in wartime... "The Pantheon of War" A few months after the start of the War, two French artists Pierre Carrier-Belleuse and Auguste François-Marie Gorguet had the idea of painting a mural in recognition of the heroes of the First World War. This canvas was presented to the public on Oct. 19, 1918 in Paris and contained 5000 life-size painted figures of heroes. The painting was so large that they needed to create a special building (a few blocks from Louvre), to display it for the next 9 years and was seen by 3 million people. In 1927 the canvas was sold and forgotten for many years until 1952 when William H. Haussner, collector and World War I veteran buys it at an auction. After several attempts Haussner gets financing to repair and adapt the canvas to be exhibit. He gave the task to Daniel MacMorris to repair it and the new version was re-exhibited in Nov 1959 in Kansas city. This new version conserves only 7% of the original and includes new images of North American history, removing many of the original European soldiers, especially French.
Of the pieces that MacMorris leaves out some are exhibited individually in the museum and some small pieces have been sold to the public
Panthéon de la Guerre' at 100: The colossal war painting that time forgot, CNN Style/Arts 18:10 October 26 2021 /https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/pantheon-de-la-guerre-wwi-painting/index.html
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