The Nelson-Atkins Press Release
War and Suffering

War and Suffering Opens July 19 at Nelson-Atkins

Focused Exhibition Reflects on Artists’ Response to Suffering and Tragedy

Kansas City, MO, July, 12 2021 – The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City is mounting a small installation of works that deepen the conversation around war and genocide through its collection. War and Suffering: Artists Respond 1914-1945, running concurrently with the important historical exhibition Auschwitz. Not Long Ago. Not Far Away, on view at Union Station through January 2022, contains 23 works that provide a view into the human and emotional toll extracted by these tragic world events as experienced by American and European artists.

“The works presented here portray not only nightmarish battles, but also the agony of waiting to be called into action or to hear news from the front, and the trauma that people and a society may feel long after a war is over,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell CEO & Director of the Nelson-Atkins. “The artists present war not as a heroic endeavor but as a destructive, tragic event.”

Human history is scarred by wars fought over ideologies, sovereignty, territory, and resources. In the first half of the 1900s, the world witnessed an unprecedented number of horrors on a monumental scale including two world wars and the catastrophic bombing of numerous cities across Europe and Japan. On top of these events, the systematic state-sponsored genocide across the Ottoman Empire (Armenian Genocide, 1915-1917), and German-occupied Europe (the Holocaust, 1941-1945), targeted and killed millions of innocent individuals. Artists working in this moment responded to the global suffering, and their collective vision helps us understand that war is both a universal and personal experience.

Artists such as Otto Dix and Max Beckmann fought in World War I and depict their first-hand knowledge of the devastating effects, both physical and emotional, of war. Georges Rouault reminds us that each fallen soldier is someone’s beloved child, and Pablo Picasso expresses his outrage at the wanton death of innocents. Beyond the action, war also encompasses the agony of waiting, either for news from loved ones serving, as evidenced by the work of Thomas Hart Benton, or through soldiers who await their next orders as captured by Théophile Steinlen.

“Galvanized by the moral urgency of war and global suffering, these artists and others in the installation exorcised their experience in a multiplicity of ways,” said Aimee Marcereau DeGalan, Louis L. and Adelaide C. Ward Senior Curator of European Arts. “They answer the unanswerable and horrific question of how art should respond to war.”

This installation will be on view through February 27, 2022.

View Exhibition

Image captions: Otto Dix (German, 1891–1969) Corpses before Burial at Tahure, 1924, Etching and aquatint on beige laid paper, Plate: 7 9/16 x 10 in. (19.2088 x 25.4 cm) Sheet: 13 7/8 x 18 5/8 in. (35.2425 x 47.3075 cm), Gift of Laurence Sickman, 65-26/2
Georges Rouault (French, 1871–1958) Wars, Dread of Mothers (from the Miserere Series), 1927
Heliogravure with aquatint, drypoint and roulette on cream wove paper, Plate: 23 x 16 5/8 in. (58.42 x 42.2275 cm) Sheet: 25 7/8 x 19 7/8 in. (65.7225 x 50.4825 cm), Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Leo R. Goertz, F86-41/3

About The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
The Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City is recognized nationally and internationally as one of America’s finest art museums. The museum, which strives to be the place where the power of art engages the spirit of community, opens its doors free of charge to people of all backgrounds. The museum is an institution that both challenges and comforts, that both inspires and soothes, and it is a destination for inspiration, reflection and connecting with others.

The Nelson-Atkins serves the community by providing access to its renowned collection of more than 42,000 art objects and is best known for its Asian art, European and American paintings, photography, modern sculpture, and Native American and Egyptian galleries. Housing a major art research library and the Ford Learning Center, the Museum is a key educational resource for the region. In 2017, the Nelson-Atkins celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the Bloch Building, a critically acclaimed addition to the original 1933 Nelson-Atkins Building.

The Nelson-Atkins is located at 45th and Oak Streets, Kansas City, MO. Hours are 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Friday through Monday; 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Thursday; closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Admission to the museum is free to everyone. For museum information, phone 816.751.1ART (1278) or visit

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Kathleen Leighton, Manager, Media Relations and Video Production
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art