My homeland - guard post at Pass de Selle (2700 m) 1915

A soldier on guard duty in the high mountains. The soldier in field-gray uniform with knee breeches, black boots and field-gray cap in the right hand holding the rifle placed on the ground, in the mouth a pipe. He is standing in front of the entrance to a position, the side rock walls of which are covered by wooden beams at the top. In the background rocky mountains, which are partially shone reddish by the morning sun. Above it a blue sky.

JQAW# G_1915_170
Oil on cardboard 47 x 35 cm
Signature: Ɑdams "Mei Heimatland".
Heeresgeschichtliches Museum (HGM) Vienna Inv.Nr. 1998/15/50 Bez.Nr. 2252/2000

Adams probably most iconic war propaganda painting, often reproduced and widely used as an art postcard. (The modified painting or possibly also a lost final version by the artist [different signature, no added signature lines, finished foreground] was used for the poster of the war exhibition in Graz in 1916; the also produced picture post card uses exactly this version of the painting; s. cross-references.) The picture, painted in 1915 in the high mountains on the Dolomite front at the Pass de Selle, uses a number of progandistic pictorial formulas (lone soldier on guard duty, sturdy peasant type soldier with pipe, idyllic high mountain landscape in alpenglow) in order to idealize propagandistically the war on the Dolomite front between Italy and Austria, which in reality was full of privation and losses. Probably not coincidentally, Adams omitted the (foreign) John Quincy in his usual signature and, with the addition of "Mei Heimatland" in partial dialect idiom, reinforced the propagandistic message that the war served to defend the homeland.

As always with propaganda works, these are far removed from historical reality. The First World War, which cost millions of victims, was not a "defense of the homeland" but ultimately led to the downfall of the monarchy and the reduction of a multi-ethnic state into a "remnant Austria", which many denied the ability to survive. Few foresaw this bitter end at the time when the picture was created. The picture itself, however, is masterly: by the refined composition, the color contrasts, and the seemingly fleeting execution ("directly at the front") with partly expressive brushstrokes, which has probably also led to its prominent provenance from the private collection of the emperor.


1915 Künstlerhaus Vienna (EL 60 1915/16 #1657)



1915 Archh. Karl, from 1916 Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary.
His daughter Erzh. Elisabeth Charlotte, von und zu Liechtenstein (1922-1993), Waldstein Castle, and her estate.
Auction Dorotheum Vienna 14.3. 1998 Lot 205.
There purchase (799 Euro) by HGM Vienna, Inv.Nr.1998/15/50 Bez.Nr.2252/2000.