In 1919 John Singer Sargent completed a large scale oil painting, Gassed. A line of First World War British soldiers, blinded by mustard gas, is led through a sea of bodies to a first aid station. The scene is appalling, and as convincing an argument for the barbarity of war as any. It is strongly reminiscent of Wilfred Owens’ Dulce Et Decorum Est:
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.
I found this video of the painting on Youtube. The camera picks out the detail in the painting very well, and helps to convey the horror of it all. Thanks to denise4peace on Youtube for this.