Tour Discusses World War II Artworks by Iowa State Artist Christian Petersen | News
On Wednesday, University Museums Director and Chief Curator Lynette Pohlman led a tour of an exhibit at the Christian Peterson Museum of Art titled “All Evil…Christian Petersen and the Art of War.” The exhibit features works created by former Iowa State Artist-in-Residence Christian Petersen that deal with the theme of war, particularly World War II.
Pohlman said she personally knew Christian’s wife, Charlotte. She says she met her while drawing Christian’s sculpture “The History of the Dairy Industry”, which is in what is now the courtyard of the Food Science Building. Charlotte arrived, looked at the sculpture “for about thirty, forty minutes” and finally helped Pohlman draw. The two then went out for some ice cream.
“As we were leaving…she said, ‘Honey, when is your project due?’ And I said, ‘Tuesday.’ She says, ‘Excellent, what time can we meet tomorrow? Because your drawing isn’t very good and it needs some work,'” Pohlman said. She also mentioned a time when she and Charlotte looked at “hundreds of drawings” and discussed art history for six hours.
Referring to Christian Petersen’s sculpture “War (After the Blitz War)”, Pohlman said: “Petersen [born in Denmark] knew the terror of … personally fleeing a country and going somewhere else … Nudity also speaks of the fragility and unpreparedness of war … The mother protects the child from the horrors of war, and she is also horrified.”
Pohlman said she believes this sculpture was influenced by the birth of Christian and Charlotte’s daughter and their loss of a stillborn son in the 1930s.
Referring to a photo of a memorial statue in Attleboro, Massachusetts, titled “World War I Doughboy,” Pohlman said, “That’s where I think you really see the first evidence that Petersen was not glorifying not the act of war. It was about the struggle of the person. Many of his war faces are anonymous. They could be anyone. They are sinister,” she said.
Pohlman also spoke of a sculpture called “Price of Victory”.
“[Christian Petersen] display it at the Memorial Union. Many of his male students were gone; they had been fished out. It didn’t stay visible for very long because the student body asked him to remove it. They said it was too hard to watch. And Petersen said that was the greatest compliment he had ever been given.
“Conversations,” located in front of Oak-Elm Hall and the Conversations Restoration Center, was the last site-specific sculpture created by Petersen. It has three parts: three women talking, a young man and a woman looking at a book, and a girl sitting alone with a book and a rose.
“All the tragedies of war that are depicted [in this exhibit] really culminate in this piece of art that really shows why you should go to war, if you have to, if you’re forced to. You do it to live a peaceful and happy life,” Pohlman said.