Kote 219 southwest Tarnow 1915
A barren hill plateau with partly destroyed wooden barricades, on which loose stones, wooden parts and uniform remains are scattered. In the background wide green landscape with a river valley, behind it largely wooded hill ranges.
Oil on canvas 42 x 53 cm
Signature: J.Q. Ɑdams C 21.9. südwest Tarnow 12.V.15.
Private collection Austria.
According to the signature, this landscape/war genre painting was made in May 1915 at elevation 219 southwest of the Galician town of Tarnow (now Tarnów, Poland). Adams had returned to Galicia in early May 1915 after his first stint on the Eastern Front in 1914 and was accompanying the offensive against Russian forces that continued to occupy Habsburg Galicia, which became known as the Breakthrough Battle of Gorlice-Tarnów. Together with (and under supreme command by) German troops, the German 11th Army and the k.u.k. 3rd and 4th Armies broke through the Russian positions and forced the Russian troops to retreat to Russian territory and thus to abandon occupied Poland as well. The Austrian troops, in turn, were subsequently able to recapture the fortress of Przemyśl and occupied Lemberg (todays Lviv) as a result of this liberation strike, events that Adams, as a war painter, documented as well. However, this success -- bought with considerable losses -- did little to change the unfavorable war situation of the Central Powers Germany and Austria-Hungary. The western front continued to be frozen in a man-eating war of position, and in the south, after Italy's declaration of war, a new front opened in the Dolomites and on the Isonzo river. The k.u.k. troops, especially the Tyrolean Kaiserjäger, were withdrawn from the Galicia front at the end of July and transferred to the southern front, which Adams then also visited and documented later in 1915 and again in 1916.
The painting Kote 219 borrows its name from military surveying, where positions were designated by elevations and their measuring points. The devastated landscape of the positions Adams captured likely show positions abandoned by Russian troops and, through the expressive brushwork, are strongly reminiscent of the subsequent paintings of the Przemyśl fortress (see cross-references), originally abandoned and destroyed by the Austrians themselves in 1914, but recaptured in 1915. In defeat as in victory, war inevitably always brings destruction and human sacrifice, which Adams, albeit somewhat propagandistically aestheticized, has left to posterity as a document in his paintings. The picture in question is documented in the entry book of the Vienna Künstlerhaus (EL 1915/16 #1244 valued at 500 Kr) and is likely also identical with the work "conquered positions south-west of Tarnow”, which was shown in 1917 in the collective exhibition John Quincy Adams (#24) (and valued at 800 Kronen). However, despite the (for Adams) relatively modest price, it remained unsold at both exhibitions, which was probably due to the expressiveness of the depiction of a devastated landscape without patriotic pathos, which in turn makes the painting today artistically valuable.
1915 Künstlerhaus Vienna (EL 60 1915/16 #1244)
1917 Künstlerhaus Vienna collective exhibition John Quincy Adams No. 24 (no entry in incoming book).
Art dealer Vienna.
Private collection Austria.