In 1959, Golub settled in Paris, where he began frequenting the Nouvelle figuration circle of artists. Later, outraged by U.S. military intervention in Vietnam, he began making paintings with a strong critical bent. His works are executed in a raw, political style of realism, ranging from roughly painted surfaces to scenes taken from news stories depicting the horrors of war. The art critic Donald Kuspit described Golub as "the Jacques-Louis David of the reactionary American empire, showing it defending its outposts through mercenaries . . . affecting every life in the world."
Golub made many portraits, often working from the newspaper and magazine photographs he collected. Here the artist had used close-up framing to produce a double portrait with figures extracted from their original context. These men could just as easily be mercenaries as victims of armed conflict. This ambiguity, and the gritty, scratched surface of the painting, create a twofold effect of pain and sadness that gives the image considerable strength.
© Estate of Leon Golub / VAGA, New York / SOCAN (2021)