Gassed - John Singer Sargent. 231 x 611 cm
At first glance, the choice of salon portraitist Sargent to create a canvas on military-patriotic themes seems somewhat strange. In fact, this artist is distinguished by a fairly wide variety of topics, he is simply better known to the general public for his portraits - purely peaceful images. However, he has a number of paintings in which the military theme is somehow present. However, the debate about this canvas has not subsided so far, as well as about the choice of Sargent as a performer.
The canvas was ordered by the artist along with a group of other famous masters by the British Memorial Committee. The purpose of the action was to capture for the descendants of the war, which was called the Great. The theme of the canvas was a gas attack. The first time chlorine gas was used by German forces near Iprom. The consequences were monstrous - more than 6,000 soldiers and allied officers suffocated in their trenches and shelters, a huge number of people were blinded and suffered terrible damage to the mucous membranes and respiratory organs, which made them disabled for the rest of their lives.
The picture is elongated and has a linear composition, which is set by the plot. It depicts soldiers whose eyes were injured due to a gas attack. They are covered with bandages and heavily burned with chlorine, so soldiers cannot see. Lined up in a chain and putting their hand on the shoulder of the previous one, they slowly move to the hospital, guided by a single assistant or nurse. In the distance to the right is another small column of soldiers and officers, also led by a medical orderly. And around right on the ground lies and sits a lot of other victims, whose turn for examination by a doctor has not yet arrived. Everyone has tight blindfolds in their eyes.
The image is presented somewhat below, which makes the composition especially expressive, as if from the point of view of those soldiers who are still lying on this deserted, dead land. The low, pale sun underlines the strange, deathly, yellowish color of a sky obscured by haze.
The color scheme of the picture is the predominant yellowish, mustard, brown colors of the field military uniform. They depersonalize people, as well as the fact that they are practically devoid of eyes - mirrors of the soul. War is a monster that can turn a person into a cog of a destructive mechanism, and then destroy, crush and cripple it as unnecessary waste material.