The Artist and the Warrior

The Artist and the Warrior: Military History through the Eyes of the Masters

Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The Artist and the Warrior
    Book Description:

    How have artists across the millennia responded to warfare? In this uniquely wide-ranging book, Theodore Rabb blends military history and the history of art to search for the answers. He draws our attention to masterpieces from the ancient world to the twentieth century-paintings, sculpture, ceramics, textiles, engravings, architecture, and photographs-and documents the evolving nature of warfare as artists have perceived it.

    The selected works represent landmarks in the history of art and are drawn mainly from the western tradition, though important examples from Japan, India, and the Middle East are also brought into the discussion. Together these works tell a story of long centuries during which warfare inspired admiration and celebration. Yet a shift toward criticism and condemnation emerged in the Renaissance, and by the end of the nineteenth century, glorification of the warrior by leading artists had ceased. Rabb traces this progression, from such works as the Column of Trajan and the Titian "Battle of Lepanto", whose makers celebrated glorious victories, to the antiwar depictions created by Brueghel, Goya, Picasso, and others. Richly illustrated and accessibly written, this book presents a study of unprecedented sweep and multidisciplinary interest.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17751-0
    Subjects: History, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. viii-xiii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  5. Foreword: Boundaries
    (pp. xv-xviii)

    One can hardly imagine two human undertakings less alike than war and the visual arts. The warrior is accustomed to a regular diet of physical danger, brute force, speedy action with little reflection, outdoor effort regardless of the weather, and a harsh disregard for human life – all in the company of many like-minded comrades. The artist, by contrast, tends to enjoy calm surroundings, the slow development of ideas, a mainly indoor existence, and, working alone, the effort to represent or reflect upon the human condition. A favorite contrast during the Renaissance was between the active and the contemplative life, and...

    (pp. 1-21)

    Every culture devises accounts of its origins, and most such stories give pride of place to military exploits. The ways that victories are won by ancestors may vary widely, but somewhere in the past there has nearly always been a decisive triumph, a moment to celebrate as the start of independence, of a new unity, or even of self-identification. It takes a while in the Bible before one gets to the Exodus, but when it arrives, it is heralded by the annihilation of a great army. For the Greeks, the beacon was the destruction of Troy; for the Romans, the...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Rome and the Middle Ages
    (pp. 22-48)

    The most powerful and long-lasting military machine of antiquity was that of Rome, conqueror of the largest of the ancient Mediterranean empires. The Romans’ success was a result of their going further than any of their predecessors in developing a state’s military capacity. Theirs, for example, was the first full-time, large-scale salaried army. A legionnaire signed up, usually in his early twenties, for a term of service that normally ran for twenty-five years. There was heavy reliance on careful organization, on drilling, on discipline, and on weapons training to shape a fighting force that chalked up an astonishing record of...

    (pp. 49-56)

    One of the consequences of the universality of warfare has been the persistence of the warrior society. Unlike forms of political organization that have given pride of place to priests, to the rich, to the well-trained, to the well-born, or to the masses (and all of these have arisen at some point in history), those that elevate the soldier are built on an acceptance of military skill and force as the basis of authority. In many respects, despite the importance of the Church, the feudal system that arose during the European Middle Ages rested on such foundations. The lord was,...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR The Persistence of Tradition in the Early Renaissance
    (pp. 57-78)

    The discovery of gunpowder’s destructive power, and its earliest application to warfare in the West during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, marked the beginning of a major military, political, and social revolution. Yet it took a long time for these transformations to make their presence felt. Exactly when the new kind of weapon first appeared remains unclear, but primitive cannon were certainly being built in Europe by the mid-fourteenth century. By the late 1370s there is evidence of their use in battle by the Venetians, whose enormous, state-of-the-art arsenal was probably the most efficient weapons factory of its age. Nevertheless,...

    (pp. 79-125)

    Although it may have been invented long before, it was not until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that gunpowder at last wrought a fundamental revolution in the conduct of war. That revolution took many forms, but at its heart lay two vast expansions: in cost and in the size of armies. Never before had armaments cost so much to produce, and not since antiquity had Europe seen so many troops mobilized at one time. Entire new trades appeared in branches of metalworking and in the manufacture of guns, cannon, and their projectiles. At the same time, there was enormous growth...

    (pp. 126-147)

    As a result of the challenge to the traditional reverence for the warrior, the image of war had undergone profound changes in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It was now possible to make the protagonists of military conflict villainous as well as virtuous, and scenes of reportage and “battles without heroes” had brought the soldier’s occupation out of the realm of moral statement and into daily life. Equally noteworthy is the elaboration, in this period, of yet another kind of artistic response to the battlefield. Even a brief look at this work, created in Muslim as well as Christian lands,...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN David Versus Goya
    (pp. 148-165)

    During most of the eighteenth century the patterns established by the gunpowder revolution retained their sway over military tactics. But as religious passions died away, and powerful central governments became increasingly concerned to limit the destructiveness of war, both battlefields and contested territories became less bloody and less damaged. From their high point in the Thirty Years War, casualty rates steadily declined, and sometimes commanders would try to avoid engaging with an enemy so as to preserve their armies. One did not want to ravage a region one hoped to conquer, because the costs of reconstruction would be so great....

    (pp. 166-203)

    Warfare in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was increasingly conducted at a distance. The rifling of gun barrels, the development of machine guns and tanks, and the use of airplanes, rockets, laser-guided bombs, car bombs, and roadside bombs were but stages in the growing resort to death delivered from afar – a progression that has been called the industrialization of war. For the first time in the history of warfare, hand-to-hand combat began to lose its significance. Casualties rose astronomically as weapons became ever more devastating as well as indiscriminate, and it may be that the killing of millions rather than...

  14. Afterword: FILM
    (pp. 204-211)

    The atrocity that Picasso evoked was soon to be overshadowed by bombings on a much larger scale in World War II, and by acts of inhumanity in Nazi Germany that descended to depths far lower than any that had been reached before. Europe was entering a time when it became hard to imagine a single painting encompassing monstrosities that made a mere thousand or so victims pale into insignificance. It seemed almost inevitable, therefore, that creative masters should turn to a new art form, film, to respond to this new kind of warfare – both its barbarity and its ability, nevertheless,...

  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 212-216)
  16. Index
    (pp. 217-228)