War

Reduced version of the 1861 painting in the Musée de Picardie, Amiens; companion to Peace, in the John G. Johnson Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art (Cat. 1062), and the paintings Work and Rest, in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, French, 1824 - 1898

Geography:
Made in France, Europe

Date:
1867

Medium:
Oil on canvas

Dimensions:
43 1/8 x 58 3/4 inches (109.5 x 149.2 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

* Gallery 155, European Art 1850-1900, first floor

Accession Number:
Cat. 1063

Credit Line:
John G. Johnson Collection, 1917

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Label:

This painting is one of a series of four, each representing an aspect of the human condition: Peace, War, Work, and Rest. Here, the state of War is shown as a dark, barren landscape where impoverished and starving people mourn their dead, raising their sorrowing eyes to the skies.

This work is a reduced version of an allegorical painting that Puvis executed in 1861 for the monumental staircase of the Musée de Picardie in Amiens, France.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    By the end of the nineteenth century, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes was among the best known and most praised French artists. The fame of his murals made him a great public figure, with all the association with convention this implies. Over time this "official" persona obscured Puvis's truly innovative contributions. With Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot he was at the foundation of French progressive painting, distancing himself from his subjects through poetic homogenization in a way that would attract Paul Cézanne, and introducing the harmonious and blurred pictorial effect that would profoundly influence Paul Gauguin and the Symbolists. This is one of two companion paintings that are reduced versions of Puvis's large murals shown first in 1861. The historical vagueness of the subjects is intentional: War takes place in some general Northern Druidic/Gallic time, while the other painting, Peace, seems to move closer to the Mediterranean and a golden age of eternal youth. Through his tremendously subtle and understated use of color and ability to retain a graceful unity within a complex design, Puvis lifted decorative painting to a new level. Joseph J. Rishel, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 191.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.