Coquelicot Art of the First World War
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Oscar Laske, Barrikadenkampf in Belgrad am 9. Oktober 1915 (Street fighting in Belgrade on October 7th 1915), 1917-8, tempera on canvas, 110 x 140 cm, Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, Vienna.

© Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, Wien.

The battlefield

12 - Oscar Laske

There is a certain connection between Laske (1874-1951) and Basel. Laske was an officer in Galicia at the beginning of the war and later, from May 1915, on the Isonzo front. He then became a military painter and was present at numerous operations in the Alps and in Eastern Europe. His painting includes elements of a descriptive style, paying great attention to details relating to topography, climate, weapons and tactics. This left-hand panel of a triptych devoted to the capture of Belgrade portrays one phase of the battle, from the crossing of the Danube to the long walk along a railway track. The central panel - now missing - apparently showed a landing under artillery fire, and the right-hand panel portrays the fighting in the streets of the town with the minute detail of a snapshot. Thus the triptych is constructed on the lines of a story in three chapters.


12-Laske" The soldiers grumbled but gave in. There were no bugles. The troop crawled on, gloomy and sinister, to be greeted by a hail of bullets which sizzled around Maillefer's ears, the men fell:
- Forward ! yelled Martial desperately.
He himself pressed his men forward.
Suddenly, the firing stopped. We saw grey beings rise out of the ground like rats, while to the left, the French troops charged in waves… "

J.H Rosny Aîné, Dans le calme et dans la tempête (In the Quiet and in the Storm), Paris, Flammarion, 1936.