What War Is Shown in This Famous Painting?

By: Jacqueline Samaroo
Image: Wiki Commons

About This Quiz

Ready to exhibit your love of fine art? Here is a lineup of some of the most widely acclaimed war paintings of all time!

In times past, many painters worked under commission to produce war art for museums or for the government. These artists used their paint and brushes as a way to depict the effects of war at home and abroad. Their paintings also had the effect of bolstering support for the war effort while driving home the realities of warfare.

A number of these artists were right there on the frontlines or behind the scenes tending to the sick and injured. They used these experiences to influence what they drew and so scenes in hospitals, ambulances and down in the trenches became a recurring theme. Do any of these masterpieces spring to mind? We're sure you'll recognize them once you see them!

Numerous artists have used the wars fought by Napoleon Bonaparte as the subject of their paintings. Some of these illustrations were made during the war years while others are modern interpretations of the place Napoleon's battles hold in history. One battle, in particular, is still thought of as the most epic one ever fought on European soil. We know you can name it, but can you spot the paintings that show it? Go ahead, give it your best shot!

Are you an art aficionado or a war history buff? You'll have to be both to conquer this quiz. It's time to find out if the paintbrush is indeed mightier than the sword - so let's get started!

The Death of Major Peirson, January 6, 1781, was painted by John Singleton Copley in 1783. This large oil-on-canvas painting shows 24-year-old English Major Francis Peirson as he is shot and killed by the French during the Battle of Jersey.

Charge of The Lancers by Umberto Boccioni is a tempera and collage on pasteboard work done in 1915. It shows the natural strength of horses as they appear to trample German soldiers carrying bayonets. In a tragic coincidence, Boccioni died the following year after being thrown and trampled by a horse.

The Battle of the Kearsarge and the Alabama by Édouard Manet was painted in 1864 one month after the Union cruiser, USS Kearsarge, sank the Confederate raider, CSS Alabama. The sinking occurred on June 19, 1864,​ during the Battle of Cherbourg off the coast of France.

Guernica by Pablo Picasso is a mural-sized oil painting which measures nearly 11.5 feet by 25.5 feet. Picasso painted it as an anti-war response to the aerial bombing of the town of Guernica on April 26, 1937,​ by German aircraft.

Over The Top by John Nash is based on the artist’s own experiences in trench warfare during World War I. Nash was one of 12 British soldiers who survived after their unit of 80 men went “over the top” against enemy forces in France.

George Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze, a German American, was painted in 1851. The original was destroyed in World War II when the German museum in which it was housed was bombed. Leutze painted two replacements, one of which was displayed for some time in the reception area of the White House West Wing.

Scotland Forever! by Lady Butler is an 1881 oil painting showing the charge of the Royal Scots Greys during the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815. This British cavalry regiment was well known for its cry of “Now, my boys, Scotland forever!” as it charged towards the enemy.

Our Banner in the Sky by Frederic Edwin Church was painted in support of the Union following the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter (April 11 – 13, 1861). The Confederates won possession of the fort during this First Battle of Fort Sumter and successfully defended it in the Second Battle of Fort Sumter (September 7 – 8, 1863).

The Harvest of Battle by C. R. W. Nevinson is his largest single work. Nevinson describes it as “A typical scene after an offensive at dawn.”

Death of General Montgomery at the Attack on Quebec by John Trumbull is a scene from the Battle of Quebec (December 31, 1775). The attack was led by General Montgomery and Colonel Benedict Arnold and ended with Montgomery dead and Arnold wounded in the leg.

The Defence of Rorke's Drift by Alphonse de Neuville is an 1880 oil-on-canvas painting. The event took place on January 22 – 23, 1879, when a regiment of 80 British soldiers successfully held off an attack by a much larger Zulu force of approximately 4,000 warriors.

The Doctor by C. R. W. Nevinson was influenced by the time the British artist spent as a volunteer in France, tending to wounded soldiers. The roughly 3,000 patients were housed in a dirty, covered goods yard which the volunteers had to work non-stop to clean and disinfect. About the painting, Nevinson later remarked, “… by working all night we managed to dress most of the patients' wounds.”

The Defence of Rorke's Drift by Lady Butler was painted after the valiant soldiers returned to Britain. It was arranged for her to meet with them and for them to dress and pose for a re-enactment of the battle. As a result, she was able to show each of them in the painting, as a kind of tribute to their bravery.

Whaam! by Roy Lichtenstein is one of the most important paintings produced by the artist. This 1963 diptych (drawn on two panels) is done in a comic book style and is influenced by All American Men of War, a 1962 DC comic book.

The Remnants of an Army by Lady Butler is an 1879 oil-on-canvas painting showing assistant surgeon William Brydon as he arrives at the gates of Jalalabad in January 1842. Brydon was initially thought to be the sole survivor of a massacre of British forces and supporters, but more survivors were later found.

In an Ambulance by Olive Mudie-Cooke is influenced by time spent by the artist as a volunteer ambulance driver in France and Italy during WW I. The painting’s complete title is “In an Ambulance: a VAD Lighting a Cigarette for a Patient.”

The Battle of Valmy by Horace Vernet was painted in 1826 as the last in a series of four highly-praised battle paintings done by the artist. The others in the series are The Battle of Jemappes (1821), The Battle of Montmirail (1822) and The Battle of Hanau (1824). Vernet supervised their restoration after all four paintings were damaged in 1848.

The Battle of Poitiers by Eugène Delacroix was painted in 1830. The battle, which took place on September 19, 1836, was fought in western France between the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of France. It was a resounding victory for England, but France went on to win the war.

A Taube by C. R. W. Nevinson shows the body of a French schoolboy lying in the streets after an air raid. The title of the painting is itself interesting, since “taube” translates as “dove” – a universal symbol of peace.

The Roll Call by Lady Butler was painted in 1874 as a general scene from the Crimean War. Its full title is “Calling the Roll After An Engagement, Crimea.” Viewers have since associated the painting with a particular battle from the Crimean War, the Battle of Inkerman (November 5, 1854). The painting was so loved by the public that it went on a national tour in England and had a policeman assigned to protect it.

Third of May 1808 by Francisco Goya is an 1814 painting which goes by several other names, including “The Executions” and “The Third of May, 1808: The Execution of the Defenders of Madrid.” It was completed two months after its lesser-known companion piece, “The Second of May 1808,” which shows the revolt leading up to the executions.

Shop for Machining 15-Inch Shells by Anna Airy is one in a series of four large-scale paintings the artist completed as part of a commission by the Imperial War Museum during WW I. Each painting highlighted a different munitions factory and was meant to stress the effect of war on every industry in the country.

Maiwand: Saving the Guns by Richard Caton Woodville is an 1883 painting depicting a scene from the Battle of Maiwand which took place on July 27, 1880. The painting shows the Royal Horse Artillery as they withdraw in defeat following the battle.

The Battle of Alexander at Issus by Albrecht Altdorfer is a panel painting completed in 1529 and based on the Alexander Mosaic from around 100 BCE. The painting is often referred to as the artist’s masterpiece due to its tremendous detail and skillful use of symbolism in both the sky and landscape.

The 28th Regiment at Quatre Bras by Lady Butler was painted in 1875. It shows the regiment during the Battle of Quatre Bras which took place on June 16, 1815, just two days before the Battle of Waterloo.

The Death of General Wolfe by Benjamin West is a 1770 oil-on-canvas painting showing a scene from the Battle of Quebec (1759). Although it is hailed as the artist’s most important and well-known work, it is not meant to be taken literally since most of the men highlighted were prominent, easily recognizable figures in the battle but were also quite unlikely to have been witnesses to General James Wolfe’s death.

Paths of Glory by C. R. W. Nevinson was one of a 1917 series of paintings which stirred controversy over Nevinson's portrayal of British soldiers. While another painting from the series (A Group of Soldiers) was eventually cleared for exhibition, Paths of Glory was emphatically denied permission. Nevinson chose to defy the order, however, and displayed the painting with a strip of brown paper across it on which he wrote:​ “Censored.”

The Battle of San Romano by Paolo Uccello is a series of three mural-sized paintings of tempera on wood panel. They are believed to have been painted sometime between 1435 and 1460 but there is still considerable debate about a more accurate date. The three paintings are currently housed separately. One is at the National Gallery in London, another at the Louvre in Paris and the third at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.

Revolt of Cairo by Anne-Louis Girodet was painted in 1810 while the actual revolt occurred in 1798. The three main figures in this highly praised painting are the saber-wielding Hussar on the left, the fierce, naked Mameluke warrior,​ and the dying master he resolutely defends.

Battle of the Alma by Horace Vernet was one of several paintings produced by the artist when he accompanied the French Army into the Crimean War. The battle took place on September 20, 1854 and resulted in a victory for the alliance made up of the French, British and Ottoman Empires.

Battle of Çesme at Night by Ivan Aivazovsky shows vessels of the Ottoman fleet ablaze on July 7, 1770 – the last day of the three-day battle. The battle and the entire war were a resounding victory for Russia.

Charge of the Light Brigade by Richard Caton Woodville is one of a commissioned series of paintings he did about Britain’s most famous battles. The soldier shown at the center of the painting is Private James William Wightman, who was taken prisoner after being gravely wounded in the Charge.

The Scottish Women's Hospital by Norah Neilson-Gray is a 1920 oil-on-canvas painting. Nelson-Gray worked as an orderly at the hospital and this painting is one of two she did under commission from the Imperial War Museum Women's Work Section. The painting’s complete title is “The Scottish Women's Hospital in the Cloister of the Abbaye at Royaumont. Dr Frances Ivens inspecting a French patient.”

Anti-aircraft Defences by C. R. W. Nevinson was painted during WW II while Nevinson worked as a stretcher bearer in Blitz-hit​ London. The newly-created War Artists' Advisory Committee had denied his request for a commission but ended up purchasing this and another painting from Nevinson just the same.

The Surrender of Breda by Diego Velázquez depicts the handing over of the keys of the city of Breda by Dutch General Justin Nassau to Spanish General Ambrosio Spínola on June 5, 1625. The city was under siege for 10 months before this surrender but in 1637, the Dutch regained control after a four-month siege.

Triptychon, Der Krieg (War Triptych) by Otto Dix has four scenes showing war and the consequences of war. The artist served in WW I and was left deeply troubled by the experience. Many of his pieces after the war depict the horrors he saw while he was a soldier.

The Battle of Poitiers in 1356 from Froissart's Chronicles depicts the September 19 conflict between the Kingdoms of England and France. The Chronicles were compiled by French-speaking medieval author Jean Froissart, who also served as court historian.

Alexander Mosaic by an unknown artist is a floor mosaic which is dated to around 100 BCE. It uses approximately one-and-a-half million tiny tiles to create a scene from a battle between Alexander the Great of Macedon and Darius III of Persia. The battle is most often taken to be the Battle of Issus (one of two battles in which Alexander defeated Darius).

La Guerre by Marcel Gromaire was painted seven years after the end of WW I. It shows five soldiers in the trenches – three seated and two looking out over No Man’s land. It is considered to be one of the artist’s greatest works.

Wellington at Waterloo by Robert Alexander Hillingford shows the Duke of Wellington boosting the morale of his troops just before a French attack. The scene is the Battle of Waterloo, one of the greatest battles and victories in British history.

Cavalry and Tanks at Arras by Lieutenant Alfred Bastien shows a scene from the early days of what became known as The Hundred Days Offensive of World War I. Sometimes simply referred to as the Hundred Days, the period marked the end of the war. It lasted from August 8 to November 11, 1918 (when WW I officially ended).

Battle of Waterloo 1815 by William Sadler features throngs of soldiers from both sides on the battlefield. This is a fairly accurate interpretation by Sadler since the total numbers were estimated at around 70,000 in the Napoleon-led French Army and approximately 110,000 among the British and Allied forces with the Duke of Wellington at the helm.

The Thin Red Line by Robert Gibb is an 1881 rendition of the Battle of Balaclava which took place on October 35, 1854. While the painting highlights the bravery of the British Army, the battle itself was a resounding success for the Russians.

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