Monday, May 16, 2011

Wounded Soldier, Otto Dix, 1916

The German painter Otto Dix painted Wounded Soldier in 1916 to record the most horrifying scenes he had witnessed in the battlefield of World War I. When the First World War erupted, Dix enthusiastically volunteered for the German Army (Remer). He was assigned to a field artillery regiment in Dresden. In the fall of 1915 he was assigned as a non-commissioned officer of a machine-gun unit in the Western front and took part in the Battle of the Somme. In November 1917, his unit was transferred to the Eastern front until the end of hostilities with Russia, and in February 1918 he was stationed in Flanders. Back in the western front, Dix fought in the German Spring offensive. In August of that year he was wounded in the neck, and he was discharged of service in December 1918 (Simkin). Dix was profoundly affected by the sights of the war, and would later describe a recurring nightmare in which he crawled through destroyed houses (Remer). He represented his traumatic experiences in his works, including Wounded Soldier. As an eyewitness to the most disgusting and scary event during the war, Otto Dix decided to put his experiences on the record to let the horror of the war be forever remembered.
The colors used in Wounded Soldier are the same as Picasso’s Guernica: black, white, and grey. Both artists use dark colors to demonstrate the gloomy atmosphere of the wars. However, the styles of the new paintings are completely different. Guernica has a chaotic layout with strange figures; Wounded Soldier is a realistic painting in which every detail is painted.
Otto Dix shows the horror of the war by painting a heavily injured soldier who is crying for help. The soldier’s left arm breaks and is twisted, and his right arm hold his chest tightly as if he is experiencing a heart attack that probably resulted from the poisonous gas. The main focus of the painting is the sorrowful, terrified face of the soldier. It seems like that he knows his end is coming but he still struggles to live. His widely opened eyes and mouth send the message that he wants to live, but his dismembered body and the injury beneath his chest already announce his death. The injured and dismembered body of the soldier shows the cruelty and horror of the war, and the soldier’s terrifying and hopeless face demonstrates the suffering of the soldiers involved in wars.

Works Cited:
Remer, Ashley. "The Art Story: Artist - Otto Dix." The Art Story: Artist- Otto Dix., 2011. Web. 11 May 2011. 

Simkin, John. "Otto Dix : Biography." Spartacus Educational. Web. 11 May 2011. 

The Great Nanjing Massacre, Zi Jian Li, 1992

Zi Jian Li created the huge painting The Great Nanjing Massacre in 1992 to commemorate the 300,000 Chinese people who were killed in the Great Nanjing Massacre. During World War II, Japanese armies invaded and took over the Nanjing province of China on December 13, 1937. After the Japanese soldiers settled in Nanjing, the soldiers began a massive murder called the Great Nanjing Massacre. Within six months, between 200,000 to 300,000 Chinese people were murdered (Jones). To help remember this horrifying event, Zi Jian Li painted the scene of two Japanese soldiers murdering innocent Chinese people and named the painting after the event (Miao). Zijian Li painted mountain of dead bodies of civilians to show the brutality and horror of the war and the misfortune of the innocent people who were involved in the war.
During an interview for Xiao Xiang Daily in 2005, Zijian Li introduced that The Great Nanjing Massacre is composed of three parts with different themes. The left part where the two Japanese soldiers stand is called “Tu (to kill)”. The middle part in which there is a baby crying on the top of the dead bodies is named “Sheng (to be born)”. The right side with a monk dragging an old man’s body is called “Fo (the Buddha)”. The first part of the painting, “Tu”, clearly states the evil actions of Japanese soldiers to the Chinese people. The man on the left who is cleaning the blood on his sword is even smiling to his partner. The two soldiers stand there with no guilt as if they did not kill hundreds of people but animals. The two soldiers represent the evilness and mercilessness of the war. In the middle part, the pile of dead bodies becomes one of the focuses of the painting. The twisted body parts of the corpses and the blood flowing on the ground reveal the disgusting side of the war. However, Zi Jian painted a survived boy lying on the top of the corpses and crying. Zi Jian explained that the boy represents the hope of the future of China. Although many people were murdered during the massacre, as long as there is a survivor, there is hope. This is the reason that Zi Jian named the middle part “Sheng,” since it not only means to be born but also means to live. Zijian Li attempts to spread the message to the suffering Chinese civilians that even though the war is horrible, everyone should still fight to live. The last part “Fo” is to show the sympathy and kindness of the Buddha, since Buddhism is extremely popular in China. The monk who is trying to bury all the victims’ bodies looks exceedingly benevolent comparing to the two Japanese soldiers. The deaths of thousands of innocent civilians painted in The Great Nanjing Massacre show the extreme violence and disgusting side of the war. The generous monk at the right becomes a symbol calling for peace and humanity.

Works Cited:

Miao, Meng. "The Exhibition of The Great Nanjing Massacre by Zijian Li." Memorial Hall for the Great Nanjing Massacre. Shanxi Daily, 22 Feb. 2011. Web. 19 Apr. 2011.

Jones, Adam. "Gendercide Watch: The Nanjing Massacre." Gendercide Watch., 2002. Web. 16 May 2011.

Epitaph of Mariana Gryphius, Andreas Gryphius, 1660

Born in flight, ringed with sword and fire,
Smothered in smoke, my mother’s bitter hostage,
My father’s greatest fear, pulled into the light

As the angry flames swallowed my native land:
I looked at this world and left it quickly, 

For in one day all the world’s anguish met me; 

If you count the days, I vanished young;
Very old, if you count what I knew of anguish.

The German port Andreas Gryphius wrote this poem to commemorate his baby niece who was born and died in one day during the Thirty Years War. The Thirty Years’ War was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history. The war was primarily a religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics (Rickard). Gradually, the war developed into a more general conflict involving most European powers including France, Sweden, and Holy Roman Empire (Trueman). Andreas Gryphius himself was a victim of the Thirty Years’ War. He grew up during the war and witnessed the destruction of large parts of Germany. Andreas lost his parents in his early age and left his native town due to the troubles of the Thirty Years’ War (Wikipedia). It is no surprise that Epitaph of Mariana Gryphius reflects not only his niece’s but also his own misfortunate childhood.
The style of the Epitaph of Mariana Gryphius is very interesting. Andreas wrote the poem from the point of view of his niece. However, through the eyes of Mariana Gryphius, the world in which she is born is not a happy place but rather hell. As Andreas indicates, she was “born in flight, ringed with sword and fire, smothered in smoke.” Childhood was supposed to fill with toys, fairy tales, and fantasies; however, the brutal war took the sweetness of childhood from the poor little Mariana Gryphius and left her sword, fire, smoke, and things that were too cruel for her age. As children opened their eyes, they should see the pleasant and cheerful faces of their parents, but during the war, Mariana saw “my mother’s bitter hostage, my father’s greatest fear.” Mariana was born without the excitement and smiles of her parents. She had to bear the sorrow and fear of her parents while other children in peaceful countries enjoy the love of their parents.
In addition to Mariana’s misfortunate childhood, she lost her home on the day she arrived. “The angry flames swallowed my native land.” Andreas wrote for Mariana. Little Mariana experienced enough misfortune on her first day coming to the world; however, the tragedy was not over yet. “I looked at this world and left it quickly, for in one day all the world’s anguish met me”. Within one day, Mariana not only experienced the horror of the brutal war but also loses her life. The girl did not even have the time to see the beautiful things in the world and passed away. All that Mariana had experienced during her short stay in the world was anguish and sorrow. Through the poem of the unhappy short life of Mariana, Andreas shows brutality of the war and the sorrow and suffering it brings to the innocent people.

Works Cited:
Trueman, Chris. "Thirty Years War." History Learning Site., 2005. Web. 11 May 2011. 

Rickard, J. "Thirty Years War (1618-48)." Military History Encyclopedia., 17 Nov. 2000. Web. 11 May 2011. 

Wikipedia. "Andreas Gryphius." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia., 27 Dec. 2010. Web. 16 May 2011.

Spring in Wu Ling, Qing Zhao Li, 1135

The wind blowing has ceased.
Fragrant flowers have fallen,
Withered and mixed with mud.
Getting up late in the morning,
I have no mood to comb my hair.
Things still remain the same,
While men are no more them.
So that nothing can be done.
Tears running down my cheek,
Before I am going to speak.
Shuangxi is beautiful in spring,
I would like to have a boating.
What I am merely afraid is that
                  The boat is too small to carry
            So much my gloomy mood and worry!

The poem "Spring in Wu Ling" is composed by the female poet Qizhao Li by the age of 53 (Ming). Qizhao Li married Mingcheng Zhao in 1101 and lived in present-day Shandong. Qingzhao Li and her husband shared interests in art collection and epigraphy and often wrote poems for each other (Qiang). Unfortunately, in 1126, the northern Song capital of Kaifeng fell to the Jurchens. Fighting took place in Shandong and the house of Qingzhao Li and Mingcheng Zhao was burned. The couple brought many of their possessions when they fled to Nanjing, where they lived for a year. Zhao died in 1129 en route to an official post. The death of her husband was a cruel stroke for Qingzhao Li, and she never managed to recover (Ming). Qingzhao Li created "Spring in Wu Ling" after the loss of her husband. The poem reflects her sorrow and the suffering that the war brought.
In the first paragraph, Qingzhao Li describes the withered environment the lifeless morning to set the gloomy tone of the poem. In the second sentence, Qingzhao says: “Fragrant flowers have fallen, withered and mixed with mud”. The gloomy description of the lifeless environment, the fallen flowers and mud, indicates that Qi Zhao Li is in a dark mood. The next two sentences soon prove it, as it says, “Getting up late in the morning, I have no mood to comb my hair.” In ancient China, women always got up early and combed their hair, because women with hair as smooth as silk were considered the most beautiful ones (Jing). However, Qi Zhao not only woke up late in the morning but also had no mood to comb her hair. Her unusual behavior show that she was in such great sorrow of losing home and husbands that she did not have the energy to take care of her beauty.
In the second paragraph, Qing Zhao Li says: “Things still remain the same, while men are no more them.” In this line, Qing Zhao Li states that even though the ruined country could be repaired, the men who passed away during the war could never come back. The next sentences show Qing Zhao’s sorrow as well. “Tears running down my cheek, before I am going to speak.” The lines indicate that no words can describe the sorrow of Qing Zhao. If she thinks about her misfortune, her tears will come out before she is able to express her sorrow. The last sentence of the poet again demonstrates the suffering and pain that Qing Zhao bears: “The boat is too small to carry So much my gloomy and worry!” Qing Zhao indicates that her sorrow and pain are so heavy that even a boat cannot carry! Spring in Wu Ling shows the suffering of innocent people during the war by describing carefully the sorrow of the author.

Works Cited:
Jing, Feng. "Xi Shi: The Most Beautiful Woman." Poems Of Wang Wei., 2008. Web. 11 May 2011. 

Zhang, Qiang. "Research On the Poet Li Qing Zhao." China Literature., 10 May 2004. Web. 2 May 2011. 

Yi, Ming. "Li Qing Zhao- Wu Ling Chun." Yi Yuanyi National Literature., 10 Aug. 2009. Web. 2 May 2011. 

Guernica, Picasso, 1937

Guernica by Picasso in 1937 was a response to the bombing of Guernica by German and Italian warplanes during the Spanish Civil War. Guernica is a town in Basque Country. During the civil war, it was regarded as the northern bastion of the Republican resistance, who opposed the Nationalists. On April 26, 1937, the Nationalist, who gained material support from Germany, requested German warplanes to bomb Guernica for about two hours (Harris). The Spanish Republican government commissioned Pablo Picasso to create a large mural for the Spanish display at the International Exposition in the 1937 World's Fair in Paris (Hart). Picasso chose to create Guernica to commemorate the horror of the Spanish Civil War by showing the suffering of the innocent civilians involved in the war.
Guernica has its own unique style to represent the horror of the war; it is not in realist or romantic terns but is instead composed of straight lines and geometric shapes to build a chaotic and messy scene. It is hard to recognize the items in the painting by the first sight, since all the subjects are in odd proportions and strange shapes. In the painting, Picasso uses black, white and grey paint to set a somber mood and express pain and despair. The dark color makes the atmosphere of the painting even gloomier. The gloomy and harsh color accompanied with the messy arrangement of the painting demonstrates the brutality and chaos of the war.
Picasso created many elements in Guernica to show the suffering of innocent people and animals during the war. The center of the painting is a horse falling in agony as it has just been run through by a spear or javelin. The large gaping wound in the horse's side is a major focus of the painting that reflects the pain that the war brings. At the very left of the painting stands a woman grieving over her dead child in her arms. Her relatively huge head becomes the focus of her body and her big mouth the focus of her head. Her giant mouth and dramatically upward pointed head make her crying look so real as if the audiences can actually hear her sorrowful cry. Underneath the horse lies a dead, dismembered soldier; his hand still grasps a shattered sword, which makes him look more pathetic. On the right of the painting, there are also three other sorrowful victims of the bombing. They scream, sob, and suffer from the war. Guernica is a painting filled with the pain and suffering of innocent civilians. It also becomes a perpetual reminder of the tragedies and horror of war, an anti-war symbol, and an embodiment of peace.

Works Cited:
Hart, David. "Guernica." Oneonta. Web. 6 May 2011. <>.

Harris, Mark. "Picasso's Secret Guernica.", 1996. Web. 16 May 2011. <>.