The Apotheosis of War
For those of you unfamiliar with Vasily Vereshchagin, he was a Russian artist of the late 19th century who tended toward a gruesome realism, especially where depicting war. (He painted many scenes of the Russo-Turkish war as well as British colonial militarism in India.) Perhaps his best known is entitled “The Apotheosis of War,” housed in the State Tretyakov Gallery in Russia.
Now, an artist called Sergey Larenkov has emerged with a new technique called “rephotography,” which is the simple alignment and melding of a historical photograph with a modern one. Thanks to the work of this artist, we can see a juxtaposition of the effects of mere days of war with the effects of years of peace. It should remain a powerful reminder, much like the work of Vereshchagin, of the horrors of war and of how much we have to lose.
Perhaps it should also be a reminder of the fact that peace should be our default option. War is not always entered into by necessity (especially as concerns the agressor), and the fact that war generally creates costs far out of proportion with its original aims is certainly not a new revelation.
I’d like to encourage you to take a look at some of Larenkov’s photos at his personal website. Many of them depict the siege of Leningrad, but even if you don’t recognize the backdrop, you’ll certainly recognize the seeming incongruity of a tank rolling down main street. And remember that it has happened before, and it could happen again. Unless we decide to stop it.