Art Spotlight: Irving Norman's 'War Wounded'


War Wounded, 1960. Oil on canvas Michael Rosenfeld Gallery/1stdibs

I've mentioned Irving Norman (1906-1989) on the podcast several times. I think he tends to come up whenever we discuss the power of art. Other times, he bears mention because his paintings cut to the the darkness of modern civilization and the human condition.

I discovered Norman's work for the first time on a visit to San Francisco's excellent de Young Museum. Specifically, his triptych "War and Peace" simply reached out from the wall and took me in its dark embrace. That painting, like much of Norman's work, held the blackest of mirrors up to the modern machine and the lives crushed in its awful gears.

So I bring you Irving Norman's 1960 painting "War Wounded," which creates a twisted vision of the dismembered and the dead as sacrifices to the monolithic institutions that rule our world. I'll say no more on its message, because a painting like this speaks with a clarity that supersedes language.

Let's look at a detail from the painting in which supplicants swim through a lake of blood and finally the monolith's gates:

War Wounded, 1960. Oil on canvas
Michael Rosenfeld Gallery/1stdibs

Be sure to explore the official Irving Norman Website, as well as the book "Dark Metropolis: Irving Norman's Social Surrealism." I own a copy myself. "War Wounded" is currently in the possession of New York's Michael Rosenfeld Gallery and you can actually buy the painting right here.


About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.