Coquelicot Art of the First World War
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Alfred Basel, Erstürmung des Dorfes Stary Korczyn durch das Landsturminfanterieregiment Nr. 1, 22. Dez. 1914 (Attack on the Village of Stary Korczyn by the Vienna First Infantry Regiment on December 22nd 1914), 1915-6, tempera on canvas, 99 x 99 cm, Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, Vienna.

© Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, Wien.

The battlefield

11 - Alfred Basel

The first solution was to tell a story. The artist chose an episode and described it amid a wealth of detail. Basel (1876-1920), a Viennese painter and engraver, was called up as a reserve officer. He took part in the fighting against Russian and Polish troops in Galicia. He became a war painter in 1915 and travelled to the Carpathians, the Tyrol and to Albania to pursue his chronicle. He chooses a precise moment, which he had probably witnessed, around which to build a narrative vision: a squad of Austro-Hungarian infantrymen stealthily approaching a village controlled by the enemy who surrenders and flees. A bombed-out farm is in flames. Basel avoids all stylistic effects, preferring the extreme simplicity of a painting that tells a tale.