Tradition Studio: Fine Art by Matt Philleo

Gallery » cafe

Cafe on the Somme

48" x 36"
Acrylic on Canvas

World War I was a new kind of war on many fronts. At the onset of the conflict, many had a romantic idea of war, thinking of the way wars were fought just a decade ago in the previous century-brave, courageous cavalrymen mounted on strong steeds, backed by huge cannon, waging quick decisive campaigns where casualties were not so bad, and victory was sweet.

What they found out was this war would be like nothing they expected. New military technology like machine guns, grenades, and mustard gas made it nearly impossible to gain more than a few yards of territory a day. Soldiers would hunker down in trenches to avoid barrages of enemy fire, while the landscape was plowed and deforested, turned into a wasteland within in matter of days.

In the middle of this depressing environment, three attractively dressed, lively women watch the event while sipping wine--in fact, they're right in the middle of it--but they're watching like they're spectators at a croquet game. If you look closer, you notice that the socialites are busy gossiping about the latest, not even paying attention to the grisly spectacle in front of them.

The woman on the right, however, a little older, more reserved, engages the two younger women in conversation only at a distance. She is still dealing with the death of a loved one, and doesn't have the time of day for trivial nonsense. She is like the bridge between the idealistic fantasy world of the others and the harsh reality of the battle.

After looking at this image, you may wonder…

Why are there women sitting in the middle of a war?

How can these women not notice what is going on?

How can they sit in the middle of battle, unscathed?

Unfortunately, I can't answer these questions in the space I have here, but the image does provoke a good discussion, doesn't it? You are invited to ponder the meaning of this image. Let me know your ideas.

This incredibly outlandish and unique idea of women sitting in the middle of a war came from my brother Paul, a writer. I painted this back in 1993, when I was 16.