Kerr Eby (1889-1946) was a combat artist on the front lines of two major wars.

He witnessed a lot of death, and his literal drawing style strained– often unsuccessfully– to convey the enormity of the tragedy.

Eby’s greatest and most profound picture was one where he gave up on his literal approach.  In September 1918 an immense dark cloud hung over the blood soaked battlefields of St. Mihiel in France.  As the French, German and Americans nervously prepared for battle the cloud seemed eerie and foreboding.  The skittish Germans called it “the cloud of blood.”

Eby chose not to focus on the heroic expressions or the  straining muscles or the corpses. In fact, he made the human element tiny and inconsequential at the bottom of his picture.  He abandoned  his trademark details which gave his previous pictures such authenticity.  Instead, the immense and mysterious and symbolic cloud, in a flat, simplified shape, dominated the picture.

This image, called “The Great Black Cloud” became Eby’s most powerful picture.
The poet W.H. Auden wrote that it was folly to attempt to capture absolute things directly: 

We have to regard the universe etsi deus non daretur: God must be a hidden deity, veiled by His creation.

An artist who attempts to look directly into the face of death and accurately record what he or she sees is destined to fail.  The result will always come out shrill or confused or just plain inadequate.  Death does not hold still for a mug shot; the enormity of the subject will never be captured by its details.

Absolute and universal forces are hidden by their creations… for example, a cloud.  The best artists seem to focus on those creations, implying what is behind them.

Via: Feedbin Starred Entries
Source: http://j.mp/2kGW4ni

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