Gassed

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Gassed, John Singer Sargent, 1919
By GARY WHITTAKER

Gas: slang: something that gives pleasure.

While these fine young are not celebrating their depiction in a rather famous painting, neither was Madame Gautreau after her depiction in Madame X. This may be hyperbole verging on an extreme, the comparison still stands. The good Madame simply wished to elevate her social status in a daring way. More daring usually translates to a better reward, yet it backfired. Her social life, and most of her entirety, became a scandal. Anyone caught near her would sink to an even lower footing for the crime of socializing with an outcast. This was the time of social standing meaning much more to ones daily life, every interaction was tied to ones social station. Eventually Madame Gautreau recovered from the set back and returned to social life. The same cannot be said for all of these young men.

A sick yellow hazes this painting, much like the mustard gas in Flanders Field. The khaki, dead earth and dead sky fill the painting with gloom. Yet, the soldiers stand tall and march on, relying on each other for support and guidance. The viewer's eye does not pick up on one single soldier, but rather the group. This is intentional, as one cannot count on one person to tell the tale of many. These soldiers still stand tall, despite their prognosis, some will recover others will not. Just as Madame Gautreau over came her endings at the brush, so too will some of these men at the hands of war.

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