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The painting “The Apotheosis of War” by Russian artist Vasily Vasilyevich Vereshchagin is widely known both in Russia and around the world. Indeed, few artists specializing in creating paintings about the war have been able to describe the essence of military operations in such a capacious and precise way: death, blood, and human suffering.
Vereshchagin painted a mountain of ugly human skulls laid among the land scorched by the war. The sun mercilessly incinerates the earth with its rays, but the earth itself is already dead, it is devastated by war, subjugated and disfigured.
Death and devastation are everywhere here, the trees look at the sky with black trunks, the grass is dark yellow. On the canvas there is not a single living person, and only the crow crawls over the bones of people. The artist dedicated his painting to all the great conquerors of the present, past and future, hinting that the result of their efforts to self-aggrandize is the death of ordinary people from the people.
From the history of the conquerors of the east, Vereshchagin knew that as an intimidation of the enemy, the lords of the eastern lands sometimes created such pyramids from the severed heads of soldiers executed for cowardice or enemy soldiers killed on the battlefield. The sight of such pyramids with the heads of the deceased was terrible and caused horror and disgust in any normal person.
The artist somewhat softens this terrible custom, drawing not the heads of the people just killed, but only their skulls. Although they, with empty eye sockets and rotten jaws, do not arouse sympathy among the audience.
The artist is harsh. But the strength of his work lies in the cruel truth of life, the truth that people themselves, driven by their own selfish interests, start wars with the goal of conquering their neighbors, which leads to hundreds and thousands of human victims. The author urges people to stop in this insatiable thirst for war and reflect on the fact that their skull may appear in the pyramid of heads.
Van Gogh Almond Branch