The Artist and the Warrior


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Military History through the Eyes of the Masters

Theodore Rabb

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An illustrated exploration of artists' depictions of war and warriors, from antiquity to modern times

How have artists across the millennia responded to warfare? In this uniquely wide-ranging book, Theodore Rabb blends military history and the history of art to search for the answers. He draws our attention to masterpieces from the ancient world to the twentieth century—paintings, sculpture, ceramics, textiles, engravings, architecture, and photographs—and documents the evolving nature of warfare as artists have perceived it. 

The selected works represent landmarks in the history of art and are drawn mainly from the western tradition, though important examples from Japan, India, and the Middle East are also brought into the discussion. Together these works tell a story of long centuries during which warfare inspired admiration and celebration. Yet a shift toward criticism and condemnation emerged in the Renaissance, and by the end of the nineteenth century, glorification of the warrior by leading artists had ceased. Rabb traces this progression, from such works as the Column of Trajan and the Titian "Battle of Lepanto", whose makers celebrated glorious victories, to the antiwar depictions created by Brueghel, Goya, Picasso, and others. Richly illustrated and accessibly written, this book presents a study of unprecedented sweep and multidisciplinary interest.

Theodore Rabb is emeritus professor of history, Princeton University. A historian of early modern Europe, he has published many books during his career and has contributed major reviews in history and art to the Times Literary Supplement, the New York Times, and numerous other journals. He lives in Princeton, NJ.

‘A fascinating exploration of the ever-turbulent relationship between art and war.’ - Richard Cork, author of A Bitter Truth: Avant-Garde Art and the Great War

'In this beautifully illustrated volume, Theodore Rabb assesses great artists' depictions of war and warriors from triumphal Assyrian monuments to Picasso's cry of anguish at the horrors of war in his famous painting Guernica. The focus is on the west, though medieval Japan and the Ottoman and Mughal Empires are included. Treatment of the impact of the enormous changes in warfare wrought by gunpowder weapons from circa 1500 through the Napoleonic wars forms the heart of the book and is particularly compelling. A masterful fusion of military history and the history of art, this work has a great deal to tell us about war and warriors and how - and why - artists have chosen to portray them.' - John F. Guilmartin, Jr., author of Gunpowder and Galleys: Changing Technology and Mediterranean Warfare at Sea in the Sixteenth Century

“Rabb’s examples are illustrated and his eye is acute….Rabb’s cultural range is impressively wide….This topical, thought-provoking book raises questions about what it means for an artist to be for or against the war.”—Edmund Fawcett, RA Magazine

ISBN: 9780300126372
Publication Date: January 24, 2011
288 pages, 7 1/2 x 9 1/4
60 b/w + 40 color illus.