The painting above is one of the greatest achievements in the history of art. It is a large painting, 2.3m x 6.1m. Painted in 1918 by John Singer Sargent. People love John Singer Sargent for his portraits and immense skill, but serene portraits he could do in his sleep. To me this is where best of art is born, when an artists does something beyond the entertainment of the senses. It is not the matter of style, but it is the message and the intention, an insight into the soul of eternal truths about the human condition.
Their eyes are bandaged, blinded by the effect of the gas. The line of tall soldiers in a procession of the celebration of madness. Many dead or wounded soldiers lie around, and a similar train of eight wounded, with two orderlies, advances in the background.
Biplanes dogfight in the evening sky above, as a watery setting sun creates a pinkish yellow haze and burnishes the subjects with a golden light. In the background, the moon rises, and uninjured men play football in blue and red shirts, seemingly unconcerned at the suffering all around them.
Dulce et Decorum est (by Wilfred Owen, 1917)
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in.
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
— Zvonimir Tosic