Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A Painter of Battles

I very much enjoyed Arturo Perez-Reverte's A Painter of Battles. It is a slow meditation on the observation of war: a former war photographer turned painter tries to paint the painting to end all paintings. Trying to create the picture that he could never take with his camera. Into the frame steps one of his former photographic subjects, a Croatian whose life is ruined (even further) because of the photo taken of him. Hovering on the edge is a ghost, the painter's lover and companion through 3 years of war.

I enjoyed it for its discussions of war, what it means to be an observer in war, painting, and art history. One reviewer called it "pseudo-intellectual" which I'm not sure quite what that means here, calling out Perez-Reverte for stepping out of bounds of what an author of historical fiction should be in (never mind that he actually was a war correspondent at one point). Fictional-intellectual?

It made me think, therefore I would call it intellectual, but perhaps I too am merely pseudo. In any case, after the book was done, I went back through and looked at all the paintings referenced, and was rewarded for it -- although I now want to see them up close and personal... Nevertheless, I gathered them in one place, and so here's many of the paintings mentioned in the book.

I remembered then, my favorite battle painting, from some book I had as a kid that might have made it into Faulques study guide if he were an American: Howard Pyle's Battle of Bunker Hill (apparently stolen not too long ago from a Delaware museum).