Results of War, Oil on canvas 1888
Completed in 1888, Louis Dessar's Results of War embraces popular French thought of the day, and points to the pervasive nationalism prevalent in France at the end of the 19th century. To fully understand the nature of this work, one must investigate the truly tumultuous period that France experienced during 1800s.
Certainly, the 19th century was an era of constant political struggle, which began with the fall of the French monarchy in the early 1790s. Subsequently, France experienced a democratic society ruled by the people (Called the First Republic), and later the swift takeover by self-proclaimed emperor Napoleon Bonaparte I (the First Empire). Following Napoleon’s death, Monarchists, Bonapartists, and Republicans warred with each other (this lasted throughout the century) and were unable to reach a consensus on a suitable form of government.In the mid-19th century, France experienced the return of the monarchy with Louis XVIII, his brother Charles X who proved extremely unpopular, and finally Louis Philippe. In 1848 there arose another revolution which led to the establishment of the Second Republic with Napoleon III as its leader. Napoleon III (Napoleon I’s nephew) soon established the Second Empire with himself as leader, and it was during this time that the famous reorganization and rebuilding of Paris occurred (in an architectural style aptly named “Second Empire.”
Finally, the Second Empire was replaced by the Third Republic, for which the sentiment was strong in Paris, but not in the countryside. It was only over time that the republic built up real support, yet the belief persisted that, given the misfortune that had preceded, the peace would not be something that lasted. As such, these cynical themes found their way, ironically, into works of art created during an era of prosperity and prestige in France known as “La Belle Epoque.” Contrary to the “modern” France in which they were painted, paintings such as Results of War portray a war-torn country, and the devastating consequences that arise out of such violence. Here, Dessar depicts a deceased mother whose body is literally wrapped around a cross-shaped grave marker, while her child (alive) looks on curiously from her right arm, unaware of the severity of the situation. Although no other figures appear in the composition, the cluster of crosses in the background signifies that this mother and child are not an isolated example of the families torn apart during this time in history.
In 1886, Dessar traveled with Saginaw native E. Irving Couse to France, where he was inspired to change his stylistic approach to painting after viewing several Barbizon landscapes. These new ideas of realism and painting experiences from life are evident in his Paris Salon entry of 1889, Results of War.