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Despair, strength, and hope: these are some war-inspired pieces of art that resonate now more than ever

These are some of the most important pieces of art that were inspired by war and today represent a historical moment in time that reminds us of how far the actions of mankind can go.

We have art so that we may not perish by the truth. That is one of Nietzche’s most famous quotes about art and it couldn’t be more wrong. Especially during war times, when civilians and innocent people perish from the decisions of world leaders.

This is why art has been, since the beginning of humanity, not only a way to depict our surroundings, but the emotions of the time, the feeling of living in a certain period, or simply to record something that happened.

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When a war or an armed conflict breaks, the whole life is touched. And of course, artists are not immune to such events. Some can experience difficulties on keep doing their art because of censorship, others are tied by the government to portray the war with a distorted optic, and others, have to flee their home countries to find themselves safe, leaving all behind like many of the citizens of the afflicted country.

But, in most cases, art prevails. These are some of the most important pieces of art that were inspired by war and today represent a historical moment in time that reminds us of how far the actions of mankind can go.

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Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix

This painting is mistakenly attributed to the French Revolution period, however, it was first exhibited until 1831, almost 100 years later.

The main goal of Delacroix was to reflect the patriotism of the French people that fought for liberty and the Republic.

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It is now exhibited in the Louvre Museum and even though it was not painted during wartime, it has become a symbol of the three main French principles fought in the French Revolution: liberty, equality, and solidarity.

Guernica by Pablo Picasso

Surely one of the most war-inspired pieces of art is this enormous wall mural. Picasso intended to illustrate the horrors that happened after the Nazi bombing of the Spanish city of Guernica.

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It has a lot of elements to study and interpret, like limbs scattered throughout the painting and a bull, being the center of the mural to show Spain’s strength through the war. Today you can see this 137.4 × 305.5 in painting in the National Museum of Spain Reina Sofia.

The third of May, 1808 by Francisco Goya

Goya’s painting was first exhibited in 1814 and its goal was to illustrate the martyrdom that occurred in 1808 in the city of Medina del Río Seco, a Spanish village that was attacked by Napoleon’s troops and defended by 21,000 Spanish soldiers.

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Dove of Peace by Banksy

On a more contemporary take, Banksy has been quite active in portraying and criticizing the horrors of armed conflict.

This graffiti was placed on a building of Bethlehem, on the Israeli West bank to point the conflict between Palestina and Israel.

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This isn’t the only piece of work Banksy has left on the area, but it is one of the most popular.

Consequences of War by Peter Paul Rubens

Also called Horrors of War, this is considered one of the earliest activist paintings. It represents the Thirty Years’ War that Central Europe struggled through from 1618 to 1648.

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In it, you can see a depiction of Mars, the god of war, marching from the Temple of Janus while Venus attempts to hold him back.

Freedom from Want by Norman Rockwell

Maybe one of the most famous American paintings. This piece of art also known as The Thanksgiving Picture was inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s ‘Four Freedoms’ State of the Union Address given in 1941.

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Although it depicts a happy ideal American family, its main objective was to boost the sense of patriotism in a post-war America.

The Apotheosis of War by Vasily Vereshchagin

This mid-19th century painting is dedicated “to all the great conqueror, past, present and to come”, as said by the artist himself.

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The painting is set outside the walls of a city in Central Asia and is considered part of Vereshchaging’s Turkestan Series.

Today you can see it in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

The surrender of Breda by Diego Velázquez

The conquest of the Dutch city of Breda is considered one of the Spanish military’s greatest triumphs during the Eighty Year’s War and Velázquez honored it with this painting.

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It was born during a trip the Spanish painter took alongside Ambrogio Spinola, the Genoese general who conquered Breda on June 5, 1635.

Battle of Chesma at night by Ivan Aivazovsky

The 1770 battle at Chesma was immortalized by this Russian painter in 1848. In it, Aivazovsky depicts a naval battle between the Ottomans and the Russians. This historical event was a precedent to the Greek War of Independence.

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Aivazovsky is considered one of the main representatives of naval paintings.

The Last Stand at Isandlwana by Charles Edwin Fripp

This British painter was appointed by the government to depict various wars in South Africa, amongst them the Kaffir War of 1878, the Zulu War, and even the Sino-Japanese War of 1984.

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