Details about the Painting
War, the painting depicts a wild woman dressed in white, and she's riding a black horse. As she rides, she races through a deserted landscape that’s full of butchered bodies. In the painting, the artist has portrayed everything as dead and destroyed. He achieved this by draining out colour and life out of everything bringing out a sense of lifelessness and destruction.
Above the woman, there's a clear blue sky that shines and focuses on the woman as she passes through the landscape. Behind her, there is a burnt tree. In front of her, another tree awaits fire and destruction once the woman passes by. The woman is carrying a naked sword and a flaming torch, unlike the classical Bellona (Roman goddess of war). Instead, the woman is a strong force, as she portrays humanity's bad side which is irresistible as a force of nature.
Henri Rousseau's painting gives no room for any vision. The painting is his most ferocious subject. It shows human beings who are dying or already dead. They are cut of like tree limbs. The pale bodies are coloured in orange similar to the clouds behind. He painted sharp black elements that recur, all the way from the horse’s mane to War's hair. The same pattern is repeated in some of the dead bodies' hair. There are several crows pecking at the victim’s bodies, and they are painted using the sharp black elements.
Rousseau was greatly affected by the Franco-Prussian war that happened between 1870 and 1871. The effects displayed in the painting are similar to the happenings of the streets in the 1890’s, where many amputees were seen all over after the war. The painting was first exhibited in 1894. It was listed as "War; she passes terrifyingly, leaving tears, despair and ruin around her". The artist’s sources of the painting's composition comprised of popular illustrations and engravings and previous works from older artists like Titian, Caravaggio and Leonardo da Vinci. Henri's previous works were always criticised. "War" was the first painting by Rousseau that received a lot of praise.