Throughout history, the grotesque has been used in literature, art, writing, psychology, and our everyday life. It is used to create a reaction within the eye of the beholder in a way that seems to attract or disgust them, but all in the same evoke an emotional response. It is evident then why the grotesque is used so prominently in war paintings. It is an easy way to either poke fun, create imagery that represents metaphors, or outright upset the audience. I also thought this was a good way of starting out this Art and War class because I believe that the grotesque can help explain why it is that artists feel the need to depict and represent the war.
For the first of the two prints that I chose to comment on I picked Otto Dix’s “Strumtruppe Geht Unter Gas Vor” or “Shock Troops Advance Under Gas.” I find a lot of unusual features shown in this print that was also brought up in the article by Francis Connelly. The body or the lack of human is the first thing that I think of when I look at this print. The soldiers are completely covered from head to toe, and their faces are covered by gas masks. This person then turns monstrous, and we are invited to wonder what these things are, are they human? The proportions of the bodies also seem to distort the imagery in the photo. In conclusion, Dix created a scene with these inhuman creates that seems unsettling to the audience. This was his way of including the grotesque into his work. The piece I chose by Goya also changes and distorts the body but in a little bit different way.
Otto Dix Strumtruppe Geht Unter Gas Vor 1924
For the Goya print, I chose “Asta su Abuelo” or “And So Was His Grandfather.” Goya used the grotesque nature of the body in a way that Connelly would describe it is carnivalesque. It is this melding of human and animal forms that seems to disturb our thoughts. It is also creating a metaphor when this imagery is used in such a way. Without making any historical reference I see a donkey, and he is reading a book and sitting a way a human would. He is also reading about other donkeys and the title hints that his grandfather was also a donkey. Is Goya using the donkey to represent this idea of being an “ass” or is it something further? Either way, it is clear that Goya is using the grotesque in a manor that is supposed to convey a message to his audience.
Francisco Goya Asta su Abuelo 1796
Both artists are great examples of how the grotesque is used in our culture to cerate a message or change the thoughts of an audience. I think it is imperative to be able to see these things when looking at art because it helps us fully understand what it is that we are looking at. There are a lot of tools that artist’s use, and the grotesque is an essential tool when it comes to war art and the way that people chose to express the way they felt about the carnage.