Soldier at a Game of Chess (Le Soldat a la partie d' echecs)
Date: c. 1915-1916
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 32 x 24 in. (81.3 x 61 cm) Framed: 43 3/4 × 35 3/8 in. (111.1 × 89.9 cm)
Credit: Gift of John L. Strauss, Jr. in memory of his father, John L. Strauss
Accession No.: 1985.21
On view in the Joel and Carole Bernstein Gallery.
During World War I, Metzinger witnessed firsthand the destructive effects of military technologies while serving as a medical orderly in the Marne region of France at an institution rehabilitating blind soldiers. The situation of artists during the War was uncomfortable; those who were not serving on or near the front line were often ridiculed in the Parisian press. It was particularly difficult for French Cubists like Metzinger sinceCubism was characterized as the most "anti-French," indeed pro-German, of all the modernist tendencies. The military subject of this portrait raises a question much discussed in the French wartime press about how military pictures should represent modern warfare. The use of abstracted, geometric, Cubist geometric forms, the subject of chess as a metaphorical 'war game,' and the anonymity of the figure (save for a military uniform labeled number 24), all suggest Metzinger's refusal to use art to put a human face on modern warfare.