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Anti War Art

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War can have a devastating effect on people and the economy. Throughout human civilization, it is estimated that various wars have together killed about a billion people. Apart from death, war also causes injury, disability, malnutrition, illness, depression, anxiety, and PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It breaks families by taking away men from their wives. It can cause both material and psychological damage.

Many anti war movements have been launched to protest against war and violence. They have been lead by prominent intellectuals and leaders like Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Ellery Channing, Noah Worcester, Henry David Thoreau, and others.

Many artists have also protested against war, which has coined the term “art activism”. Through their anti war artwork, they have protested against violence and this has inspired others to join the movement.

Famous Anti War Art

Anti war art is not new. Anti war art origins go back a long time to the 1960’s and the trend continues to this day. Artists have over the years protested against the war in Vietnam, Iraq war, nuclear war, and the latest Russia-Ukraine conflict. This is sometimes referred to as modern war art. Some people point out that anti-war art has a longer history and rightly so, as after the Great War, a group produced a kind of anti-art that mocked modern civilization.

  • 60’s Anti War Art – The 1960s was a decade of cultural and political activism and mass protest. The anti war movement art in this decade mostly focused on the Vietnam War, which remain to this day one of the most controversial conflicts. Vietnam anti war art rocked society and put pressure on both the military and political leaders.

The pop art scene of the 1960s reacted visually to the anti war sentiments of the United States. As a result, there was quite a turmoil caused during the time period of Vietnam War. Never before had so many people from a diverse background protested so openly against a government decision. Many even believe that the anti war Vietnam art and movement eventually caused the rise of the American counterculture like the hippie movement.

  • Anti Iraq War Art – Young sculptors and painters joined the Vietnam War generation in what was an unprecedented protest against war and large scale violence. From San Francisco to London, artists publicized against the work through their anti war posters, sculptures, collages, and photographs. Initially, the art community was slow to respond. But it eventually became a roar.


Fernando Botero, the figurative painter from Colombia protested against the torture scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison of Iraq. Clinton Fein, a controversial artist from the US West Coast produced a series of photographic reconstructions to protest against the prison incident. In London 2003, Karmarama drew a poster condemning the conflict titled “Make Tea Not War”.

  • Anti Nuclear War Art – Protest artists came up with anti nuclear war art after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. The first artists were those who survived the bombings. The occupation authorities controlled the release of the photographs and artworks. However, the artists and photographers continued producing visual representations.

Yōsuke Yamahata took pictures of Nagasaki on 10th August 1945, a day after the bombing, but they were released only in 1952. Voltolino Fontani, the Italian artist, highlighted the danger of nuclear radiation. Voltolino Fontani depicted how an atom bomb gets disintegrated and fragmented on canvas. There are many other examples of protest art against nuclear war.

Modern Anti War Art

Sadly, today’s world is not a safer place than what it was 50 or 70 years earlier. We have seen the Yemeni Civil War, Second Congo War (1998–2003), Syrian Civil War, Afghanistan War, and the recent Russia-Ukraine crisis causing a lot of harm and destruction.

Modern art that can be referred to art from the 1980 onwards to the 21st century has become more diverse. The anti war modern art now also includes graffiti, street art, and art even on the internet.

  • Anti War Art Banksy – The British street artist Banksy has used art as a weapon to protest against war. Banksy is one of the most active political artists in the modern world. Banksy anti war graffiti always criticizes military and political interventions. His famous CND Soldiers shows two soldiers who are dressed in full combat gear and painting a red peace sign on a wall. Turf War of Banksy shows Winston Churchill rocking a green Mohawk.


  • Ukraine Anti War Art – The Putin-led invasion of Ukraine has once again brought protest art to the limelight. Street artists from around the world are using their spray paints and brushes to produce murals around the world protesting against the conflict and reminding us the human cost of war. Many artists have colored cities in blue and yellow, showing solidarity against the war.


The French artist Christian Guemy or C215, a former collaborator of Banksy, went to Ukraine to paint images of innocence and serenity on the walls of Kyiv. C215 came up with a mural of a girl in the Ukrainian flag colors on the side of an apartment in Paris. The German artist Justus Becker painted a giant dove holding an olive branch on the façade of a building in Frankfurt, Germany. Street artist HIJACK from Los Angeles raised his concern for the children of Ukraine.

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Most Famous Anti War Art

Here are some famous protest art examples – 

  1. Claes Oldenburg, Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks (1969–74)
  2. ASCO, First Supper (1974)
  3. Chris Burden, Shoot (1971)
  4. Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd, The Knotted Gun a.k.a. Non-Violence (1980)
  5. Guo Jian, Tiananmen Square (2014)
  6. Ai Wei Wei, S.A.C.R.E.D. (2013)
  7. Gyula Pauer, Shoes on the Danube Bank (2005)
  8. Menashe Kadishman, Shalekhet (Fallen Leaves) 2001
  9. Tatsuya Tanaka, NO WAR (2022)
  10. Ai Wei WEI, Arch (2022)

Anti war paintings and photos are now more powerful than battle paintings. They highlight the human suffering and the huge loss. The activist artists are trying to make the world a better and safer place.

4 thoughts on “Anti War Art

  1. These anti war activists are just like the climate activists and the so-called whistleblowers. It almost exclusively targeted at Western interests and rarely at far worse targets like China, Russia, Iran, India, Saudi Arabia, etc. There’s no fame and money in that.

  2. You’re right. We should have more war!

  3. Opposing war is like opposing disease.

  4. And yet our officials in DC can’t seem to get enough.

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