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John Singer Sargent -- American painter 
Imperial War Museum
Oil on canvas
Full painting -- 231 x 611.1 cm (91 x 240 1/2 in.)
jpg: Art and World War I
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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 gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! An ecstasy of fumbling, 

Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time, 
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling 
And floundering like a man in fire or lime. 
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light, 
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. 
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, 
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. 

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace 
Behind the wagon that we flung him in. 
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, 
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin; 
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood 
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, 
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud 
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, 
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest 
To children ardent for some desperate glory, 
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est 
Pro patria mori.

-- Wilfred Owen (1917)


Six Head Studies for "Gassed"

Studies of a Soldier Drinking, for Gassed

Study for Gassed (2)

Two Studies of Soldiers for Gassed

Heads, Hands, and Figure (studies for Gassed)

Two Studies for "Gassed"

"While at the casualty station he witnessed an orderly leading a group of soldiers that had been blinded by mustard gas. He used this as a subject for a naturalist allegorical frieze depicting a line of young men with their eyes bandaged. Gassed soon became one of the most memorably haunting images of the war." (Spartacus Internet Encyclopedia)

As always, Sargent had been interested in painting the truth. Here, an actual picture of soldiers lined up after a mustard attack.



From: Joe Summers
JW  Su
Date: Mon, 18 Nov 2002 

Gassed is my favorite.

We were in Washington DC 3 years ago when Sargent was featured at the National Museum of Art. We stayed many hours. His portraits are great especially Madame X and the story behind the shoulder strap on the dress. 

Gassed, had to me, feeling. I could see the suffering and pain of the troops. The massive size mural of the painting. My uncle was gassed in that war but only bothered him in his later years. He could have easily been one of those in that line. I could feel as Sargent must have felt. We were talking to a friend this week, who also saw the painting in DC, and he brought out the soccer players in the background of which I didn't remember seeing [hardly noticeable in this image, between the legs of the rear third of the line of soldiers -- but in person the soldiers in the foreground are near life-sized]. Life goes on in the picture as others may suffer.

I had remembered studying Sargent in art but never expected to see an original. It's just one of the greatest pieces of art and along with some of the art in the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, OK, I have seen.

Thank for placing his works on the internet as I, among others, have enjoyed viewing.

Joe in Westminster, CO 


Created 1999