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Leon Golub

Mercenaries II

Artist

Leon Golub
Chicago 1922 – New York 2004

Title

Mercenaries II

Date

1979

Materials

Acrylic on canvas

Dimensions

305 x 366 cm

Credits

Purchase, Horsley and Annie Townsend Bequest, inv. 1983.1

Collection

Western Art

Leon Golub is one of the masters of political realism, and one of the few American painters of his generation to have steered away from abstraction. Golub developed a grim vision of the brutality of power, which he dubbed “brutal realism.” He fully engaged in political current events with the “Napalm” series, which evoked the horrors of the Vietnam War. This was followed by a series devoted to the world of mercenaries, paramilitaries and interrogations under torture. Characteristic of the other works in the latter series and painted against a background of red oxide, this painting is inspired by the murals of Pompeii. Golub imparts a heroic dimension to a scene that is anything but heroic – mercenaries horsing around. The artist says of them: “they may be brutes, but . . . they’re not that different from everybody else . . . they are part of a system of domination and control.”

© Estate of Leon Golub / VAGA, New York / SOCAN (2021)

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