Coquelicot Art of the First World War
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Gino Severini, Armoured Train in Action, 1915, oil on canvas, 115.8 x 88.5 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

© SESAM, Paris, 1998.

The age of artillery

35 - Gino Severini

One of the rare Severini paintings that does not fall back on words or a collage of signs and symbols, this painting takes its inspiration from a photograph published in Le Miroir on November 1st 1914. It depicts an armoured railway carriage equipped with turrets. The caption explains how the convoy "having, at full speed, broken through the enemy front lines (...) had no sooner stopped than its artillery was trained on the German trenches and opened fire. (...) The sound of bullets against the armour-plating of the train rang out continuously." This episode, which remains a rarity only possible at the start of the war, becomes, for Severini, a glorification of mechanical power. Oblique lines criss-cross like the trajectories of the projectiles and the silhouettes of the infantrymen are dominated by the barrel of the gun. The scene is enveloped in smoke, smoke painted 'à la Léger' in foliated curves.