War and Military

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Artworks featuring images of war and soldiers, subjects with a long and rich tradition in Western art history. During the Renaissance, masters like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo created heroic and bloodless (but still violent) scenes of combatants, heralding a rise of an emphasis on documentary truth in paintings. In subsequent years, artists took different routes to capture the events: some tried to encapsulate all of the action of a conflict into one image, while others used panels to create a sequential view of events. The early 16th century saw a new focus on portraits of soldiers, with German artists favoring a more closely observed and realistic style than their Italian counterparts. The 17th century saw the rise of war paintings lacking a hero, as well as the advent of some of the first seemingly antiwar works, such as Jacques Callot's Misères de la Guerre (1633). Romanticism, for its part, gave birth to the highly dramatic war scene, and the 19th century saw more and more artists concerned with the casualties and suffering of military and war—Francisco de Goya's Third of May (1808) and Édouard Manet's series on the execution of Maximilian are some of the most iconic examples. Antiwar works have increasingly become the norm in the 20th century, as artists have turned to depicting war and the military as a means of critique and protest.

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