War and art: Vasily Vereshchagin

On this day in 1842 one of the greatest masters of the battle painting was born in Russia – Vasily Vereshchagin.

In 1860 he graduated from the Navy corps – the young man was predicted a brilliant career as a navy officer. But in defiance to the parents’ will and public opinion Vasily preferred to become an artist, so he entered the Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg and completed his education in Paris. He travelled a lot and visited the USA, the Philippines, the Himalayas, India and Tibet and Japan.

Vereshchagin devoted all his life to depicting of war. He was one of the first battle painters, who saw war not as something heroic and triumphant but as the cause of blood, grief and one of the greatest tragedies.  The master believed that an hour of glory on the war costs days of suffering and torments. He also claimed a war artist has no right to paint such scenes staying far of from them and that one has to experience everything connected with war – hunger, cold, diseases, wounds, being not afraid to sacrifice his life. And Vereshchagin even shared the destiny of his heroes – he died on April 13th, 1904 near Port Arthur, where a Russian flagship Petropavlovsk struck two Japanese mines while returning to Port Arthur and sank.

 

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