War and Conflict

Arms and armor curator Dirk Breiding contemplates the duality of war and the role of art which represents conflict.

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One of the questions that doesn't seem to let me go is whether war is some kind of human condition.

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  • "War and Conflict" by Dirk Breiding
    1280852
  • [Cavalry Maneuvers, Camp de Châlons]  |  1857  |  Gustave Le Gray (French)  |  Albumen silver print from glass negative  |  Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005 (2005.100.49)
    12611024
  • The Battles of Hogen and Heiji  |  Edo period, 17th century  |  Japanese  |  Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, and gold on paper  |  Rogers Fund, 1957 (57.156.4–5)
    1280579
  • The Battles of Hogen and Heiji  |  Edo period, 17th century  |  Japanese  |  Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, and gold on paper  |  Rogers Fund, 1957 (57.156.4–5)
    12651024
  • Oba with Animals  |  18th–19th century  |  Nigeria; Edo peoples, court of Benin  |  Brass  |  Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls, 1991 (1991.17.113)  |  Altar to the Hand (Ikegobo) of Ezomo Ehenua  |  18th–19th century  |  Nigeria; Edo peoples, court of Benin  |  Brass  |  Rogers Fund, 1996 (1996.11)
    8951024
  • Interior Scene with Soldiers Pillaging  |  17th century  |  Anonymous  |  Pen and black ink, watercolor, gouache  |  The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1952 (52.567.1)
    8641024
  • Washington Crossing the Delaware  |  1851  |  Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (German, active United States)  |  Oil on canvas  |  Gift of John Stewart Kennedy, 1897 (97.34)
    1280735
  • Washington Crossing the Delaware  |  1851  |  Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (German, active United States)  |  Oil on canvas  |  Gift of John Stewart Kennedy, 1897 (97.34)
    1280922
  • Field Where General Reynolds Fell, Battlefield of Gettysburg  |  1863  |  Timothy O'Sullivan (American)  |  Albumen silver print from glass negative  |  Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005 (2005.100.502.1) (1–50)
    1280998
  • The Veteran in a New Field  |  1865  |  Winslow Homer (American)  |  Oil on canvas  |  Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot (1876–1967), 1967 (67.187.131)
    1280808
  • A Bit of War History: The Veteran  |  1866  |  Thomas Waterman Wood (American)  |  Oil on canvas  |  Gift of Charles Stewart Smith, 1884 (84.12c)
    7271024
  • Armor of heavy cavalry  |  ca. 1610–20  |  Italian (Milan or Brescia)  |  Steel, gold, leather, and textile  |  Purchase, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Gift, 2002 (2002.130a–p)
    7101024
  • Battle of Naked Men  |  1465  |  Antonio Pollaiuolo (Italian, Florentine)  |  Engraving  |  Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1917 (17.50.99)
    1228855
  • Three Little Girls in a Room Arguing and Spitting  |  19th century  |  Lorenz Frølich (Danish)  |  Pen and black ink over traces of a graphite underdrawing, touches of white gouache  |  Gift of Lincoln Kirstein, 1966 (66.576.10 (11))
    7921024
  • Aeneas Rescues His Father from Burning Troy  |  1627  |  Rudolf Meyer (Swiss)  |  Pen and black ink, gray wash  |  Purchase, Stephen A. Geiger Gift and Harry G. Sperling Fund, 2001 (2005.120)
    10071024
  • The Battle about Money  |  after 1570  |  Pieter van der Heyden after Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Netherlandish)  |  Engraving; second state of four  |  Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1926 (26.72.40)
    1280991
  • [American Troops Landing on D-Day, Omaha Beach, Normandy Coast]  |  1944  |  Robert Capa (American, born Hungary)  |  Gelatin silver print  |  Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987 (1987.1100.501)
    1280888
  • The Heroic Song of Stalingrad  |  1943  |  Karl Goetz (German)  |  Bronze  |  Gift of Stephen K. Scher, 2009 (2009.274)
    10151024
  • And There's Nothing to Be Done (Y no hai remedio)  |  1810–23  |  Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Spanish)  |  Etching, drypoint, burin, and burnisher  |  Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1932 (32.62.17)
    12181024
  • jpeg ny02  |  2004  |  Thomas Ruff (German, born 1958)  |  Chromogenic print  |  Purchase, Denise and Andrew Saul Gift; Marlene Nathan Meyerson Gift, in memory of Andrew H. Golkin; Pamela and Arthur Sanders and The Robert A. and Renée E. Belfer Family Foundation Gifts; Neil C. S. Hirsch Gift; and Marian and James H. Cohen Gift, in memory of their son, Michael Harrison Cohen, 2006 (2006.92)
    1280917
  • Dirk Breiding
    1280852
  • My name is Dirk Breiding. I'm a curator in the arms and armor department, and I work with objects every day that in some way or another are connected with conflicts and wars.

  • If you think about conflicts and wars, you're basically thinking in extremes, that on the one level

  • you have war as something abstract, but I then you realize that there would be no war unless

  • individuals took part in it. Wars can be

  • fascinating when you just have to study them.

  • They must be absolutely horrifying when you're thrown into a war. And I've always been much more interested in

  • how individuals are affected. When I look at Washington Crossing the Delaware, he's obviously portrayed as some kind of a hero and

  • there's a lot of determination on his face, but what happens in war must be utter chaos. You can

  • only imagine when you look at the battlefield of Gettysburg, for example, you almost cynically think if you're thrown in the midst of something horrible like this, maybe you're the lucky one if you don't survive.

  • I wanted to look at people who did survive the war. The Veteran by Winslow Homer--you wouldn't even know that it is a veteran if the title didn't tell you. There are hints, but at first glance you would have no idea. I'm sure he's in some way happy that the war is over, but is he proud? Is he tormented by what he's experienced? You don't see the face, you can only guess really.

  • When, by contrast, you know this painting has all sorts of levels. He's obviously survived, but not only is he a Union soldier but he's also African American. If you just take him as a soldier and you look at him, he's still saluting despite his horrible injury. Is there some social commentary, you know, what was the artist trying to say or if you take the person at face value, what is he actually thinking at that point?

  • One of the things that armor does is it obscures the face. You have no idea what the person wearing a helmet with a visor is thinking, which makes armor to some people very scary. One of the

  • questions that doesn't seem to let me go is whether war is some kind of human condition, and that battle is not only a grown-up concept

  • even little children argue over the smallest things. And that almost lends a comical level to conflict.

  • You know, any victory that's been achieved, yes it's shaped history in a certain way but there's no way of telling how lasting the effects may be.

  • I like the intelligent way to show with humor how even the most serious of human endeavors can be completely useless. I think one of the problems is that we cannot pass on experiences. It sort of gets lost in time.

  • I'm German, and the second World War to my grandfather was a very real event that he lived through, to me it is a historical event that I relate to in a way, but I haven't experienced it. I think art offers one way of passing experiences on.

  • Of course art has a certain responsibility there as well. You can use art for propaganda purposes, and art can glorify war, but at the same time it can relate

  • some of the horrors. The danger is of course that you fall back into the safety again, that you look at the horrors and you take on the position of a voyeur, but that is

  • left to anyone, you know, how you want to look at art. Do you want to learn something? Do you want to enjoy it? Do you want to always see something uplifting? Or do you want something

  • thought-provoking?

  • 2005.100.49
    [Cavalry Maneuvers, Camp de Châlons], 1857, Gustave Le Gray (French), Albumen silver print from glass negative Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005 (2005.100.49)
  • 57.156.4-5
    The Battles of Hogen and Heiji, Edo period, 17th century, Japanese, Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, and gold on paper Rogers Fund, 1957 (57.156.4–5)
  • 1991.17.113,1996.11
    Oba with Animals, 18th–19th century, Nigeria; Edo peoples, court of Benin, Brass Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls, 1991 (1991.17.113), Altar to the Hand (Ikegobo) of Ezomo Ehenua, 18th–19th century, Nigeria; Edo peoples, court of Benin, Brass Rogers Fund, 1996 (1996.11)
  • 52.567.1
    Interior Scene with Soldiers Pillaging, 17th century, Anonymous, Pen and black ink, watercolor, gouache The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1952 (52.567.1)
  • 97.34
    Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1851, Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (German, active United States), Oil on canvas Gift of John Stewart Kennedy, 1897 (97.34)
  • 2005.100.502.1
    Field Where General Reynolds Fell, Battlefield of Gettysburg, 1863, Timothy O'Sullivan (American), Albumen silver print from glass negative Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005 (2005.100.502.1) (1–50)
  • 67.187.131
    The Veteran in a New Field, 1865, Winslow Homer (American), Oil on canvas Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot (1876–1967), 1967 (67.187.131)
  • 84.12c
    A Bit of War History: The Veteran, 1866, Thomas Waterman Wood (American), Oil on canvas Gift of Charles Stewart Smith, 1884 (84.12c)
  • 2002.130a-p
    Armor of heavy cavalry, ca. 1610–20, Italian (Milan or Brescia), Steel, gold, leather, and textile Purchase, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Gift, 2002 (2002.130a–p)
  • 17.50.99
    Battle of Naked Men, 1465, Antonio Pollaiuolo (Italian, Florentine), Engraving Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1917 (17.50.99)
  • 66.576.10-11
    Three Little Girls in a Room Arguing and Spitting, 19th century, Lorenz Frølich (Danish), Pen and black ink over traces of a graphite underdrawing, touches of white gouache Gift of Lincoln Kirstein, 1966 (66.576.10 (11))
  • 2005.120
    Aeneas Rescues His Father from Burning Troy, 1627, Rudolf Meyer (Swiss), Pen and black ink, gray wash Purchase, Stephen A. Geiger Gift and Harry G. Sperling Fund, 2001 (2005.120)
  • 26.72.40
    The Battle about Money, after 1570, Pieter van der Heyden after Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Netherlandish), Engraving; second state of four Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1926 (26.72.40)
  • 1987.1100.501
    [American Troops Landing on D-Day, Omaha Beach, Normandy Coast], 1944, Robert Capa (American, born Hungary), Gelatin silver print Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987 (1987.1100.501)
  • 2009.274
    The Heroic Song of Stalingrad, 1943, Karl Goetz (German), Bronze Gift of Stephen K. Scher, 2009 (2009.274)
  • 32.62.17
    And There's Nothing to Be Done (Y no hai remedio), 1810–23, Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Spanish), Etching, drypoint, burin, and burnisher Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1932 (32.62.17)
  • 2006.92
    jpeg ny02, 2004, Thomas Ruff (German, born 1958), Chromogenic print Purchase, Denise and Andrew Saul Gift; Marlene Nathan Meyerson Gift, in memory of Andrew H. Golkin; Pamela and Arthur Sanders and The Robert A. and Renée E. Belfer Family Foundation Gifts; Neil C. S. Hirsch Gift; and Marian and James H. Cohen Gift, in memory of their son, Michael Harrison Cohen, 2006 (2006.92)
  • [Cavalry Maneuvers, Camp de Châlons], 1857, Gustave Le Gray (French), Albumen silver print from glass negative Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005 (2005.100.49)
    The Battles of Hogen and Heiji, Edo period, 17th century, Japanese, Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, and gold on paper Rogers Fund, 1957 (57.156.4–5)
    Oba with Animals, 18th–19th century, Nigeria; Edo peoples, court of Benin, Brass Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls, 1991 (1991.17.113), Altar to the Hand (Ikegobo) of Ezomo Ehenua, 18th–19th century, Nigeria; Edo peoples, court of Benin, Brass Rogers Fund, 1996 (1996.11)
    Interior Scene with Soldiers Pillaging, 17th century, Anonymous, Pen and black ink, watercolor, gouache The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1952 (52.567.1)
    Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1851, Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (German, active United States), Oil on canvas Gift of John Stewart Kennedy, 1897 (97.34)
    Field Where General Reynolds Fell, Battlefield of Gettysburg, 1863, Timothy O'Sullivan (American), Albumen silver print from glass negative Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005 (2005.100.502.1) (1–50)
    The Veteran in a New Field, 1865, Winslow Homer (American), Oil on canvas Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot (1876–1967), 1967 (67.187.131)
    A Bit of War History: The Veteran, 1866, Thomas Waterman Wood (American), Oil on canvas Gift of Charles Stewart Smith, 1884 (84.12c)
    Armor of heavy cavalry, ca. 1610–20, Italian (Milan or Brescia), Steel, gold, leather, and textile Purchase, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Gift, 2002 (2002.130a–p)
    Battle of Naked Men, 1465, Antonio Pollaiuolo (Italian, Florentine), Engraving Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1917 (17.50.99)
    Three Little Girls in a Room Arguing and Spitting, 19th century, Lorenz Frølich (Danish), Pen and black ink over traces of a graphite underdrawing, touches of white gouache Gift of Lincoln Kirstein, 1966 (66.576.10 (11))
    Aeneas Rescues His Father from Burning Troy, 1627, Rudolf Meyer (Swiss), Pen and black ink, gray wash Purchase, Stephen A. Geiger Gift and Harry G. Sperling Fund, 2001 (2005.120)
    The Battle about Money, after 1570, Pieter van der Heyden after Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Netherlandish), Engraving; second state of four Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1926 (26.72.40)
    [American Troops Landing on D-Day, Omaha Beach, Normandy Coast], 1944, Robert Capa (American, born Hungary), Gelatin silver print Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987 (1987.1100.501)
    The Heroic Song of Stalingrad, 1943, Karl Goetz (German), Bronze Gift of Stephen K. Scher, 2009 (2009.274)
    And There's Nothing to Be Done (Y no hai remedio), 1810–23, Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Spanish), Etching, drypoint, burin, and burnisher Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1932 (32.62.17)
    jpeg ny02, 2004, Thomas Ruff (German, born 1958), Chromogenic print Purchase, Denise and Andrew Saul Gift; Marlene Nathan Meyerson Gift, in memory of Andrew H. Golkin; Pamela and Arthur Sanders and The Robert A. and Renée E. Belfer Family Foundation Gifts; Neil C. S. Hirsch Gift; and Marian and James H. Cohen Gift, in memory of their son, Michael Harrison Cohen, 2006 (2006.92)
    8000–2000 B.C.
    2000–1000 B.C.
    1000 B.C.–1 A.D.
    1–500 A.D.
    500–1000 A.D.
    1000–1400 A.D.
    1400–1600 A.D.
    1600–1800 A.D.
    1800–1900 A.D.
    1900–Present

    Works of art in order of appearance

    Last Updated: August 19, 2013. Not all works of art in the Museum's collection may be on view on a particular day. For the most accurate location information, please check this page on the day of your visit.

    [Cavalry Maneuvers, Camp de Châlons]
    1857
    Gustave Le Gray (French)
    Albumen silver print from glass negative
    Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005 (2005.100.49)
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor
    The Battles of Hogen and Heiji
    Edo period, 17th century
    Japanese
    Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, and gold on paper
    Rogers Fund, 1957 (57.156.4–5)
    Not on view
    Asian ArtSecond Floor
    Oba with Animals
    18th–19th century
    Nigeria; Edo peoples, court of Benin
    Brass
    Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls, 1991 (1991.17.113)
    Altar to the Hand (Ikegobo) of Ezomo Ehenua
    18th–19th century
    Nigeria; Edo peoples, court of Benin
    Brass
    Rogers Fund, 1996 (1996.11)
    On view: Gallery 352
    Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasFirst Floor
    Interior Scene with Soldiers Pillaging
    17th century
    Anonymous
    Pen and black ink, watercolor, gouache
    The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1952 (52.567.1)
    Not on view
    Drawings and PrintsSecond Floor
    Washington Crossing the Delaware
    1851
    Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (German, active United States)
    Oil on canvas
    Gift of John Stewart Kennedy, 1897 (97.34)
    On view: Gallery 760
    American Paintings and SculptureFirst and Second Floors
    Field Where General Reynolds Fell, Battlefield of Gettysburg
    1863
    Timothy O'Sullivan (American)
    Albumen silver print from glass negative
    Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005 (2005.100.502.1) (1–50)
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor
    The Veteran in a New Field
    1865
    Winslow Homer (American)
    Oil on canvas
    Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot (1876–1967), 1967 (67.187.131)
    Not on view
    American Paintings and SculptureFirst and Second Floors
    A Bit of War History: The Veteran
    1866
    Thomas Waterman Wood (American)
    Oil on canvas
    Gift of Charles Stewart Smith, 1884 (84.12c)
    On view: Gallery 762
    American Paintings and SculptureFirst and Second Floors
    Armor of heavy cavalry
    ca. 1610–20
    Italian (Milan or Brescia)
    Steel, gold, leather, and textile
    Purchase, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Gift, 2002 (2002.130a–p)
    On view: Gallery 371
    Arms and ArmorFirst Floor
    Battle of Naked Men
    1465
    Antonio Pollaiuolo (Italian, Florentine)
    Engraving
    Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1917 (17.50.99)
    Not on view
    Drawings and PrintsSecond Floor
    Three Little Girls in a Room Arguing and Spitting
    19th century
    Lorenz Frølich (Danish)
    Pen and black ink over traces of a graphite underdrawing, touches of white gouache
    Gift of Lincoln Kirstein, 1966 (66.576.10 (11))
    Not on view
    Drawings and PrintsSecond Floor
    Aeneas Rescues His Father from Burning Troy
    1627
    Rudolf Meyer (Swiss)
    Pen and black ink, gray wash
    Purchase, Stephen A. Geiger Gift and Harry G. Sperling Fund, 2001 (2005.120)
    Not on view
    Drawings and PrintsSecond Floor
    The Battle about Money
    after 1570
    Pieter van der Heyden after Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Netherlandish)
    Engraving; second state of four
    Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1926 (26.72.40)
    Not on view
    Drawings and PrintsSecond Floor
    [American Troops Landing on D-Day, Omaha Beach, Normandy Coast]
    1944
    Robert Capa (American, born Hungary)
    Gelatin silver print
    Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987 (1987.1100.501)
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor
    The Heroic Song of Stalingrad
    1943
    Karl Goetz (German)
    Bronze
    Gift of Stephen K. Scher, 2009 (2009.274)
    Not on view
    European Sculpture and Decorative ArtsFirst Floor
    And There's Nothing to Be Done (Y no hai remedio)
    1810–23
    Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Spanish)
    Etching, drypoint, burin, and burnisher
    Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1932 (32.62.17)
    Not on view
    Drawings and PrintsSecond Floor
    jpeg ny02
    2004
    Thomas Ruff (German, born 1958)
    Chromogenic print
    Purchase, Denise and Andrew Saul Gift; Marlene Nathan Meyerson Gift, in memory of Andrew H. Golkin; Pamela and Arthur Sanders and The Robert A. and Renée E. Belfer Family Foundation Gifts; Neil C. S. Hirsch Gift; and Marian and James H. Cohen Gift, in memory of their son, Michael Harrison Cohen, 2006 (2006.92)
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor

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