Wilhelm Freddie (1909-95): The Day D, 1944
When World War II broke out,Wilhelm Freddie was famous in Denmark as one of the most uncompromising of the young Surrealist artists of the time. His was the classic surrealist project: to lay bare unconscious dreams and desires, but as a distinctive feature his pictures also have a critical and moral content. His objective was also to unveil the repressions and hypocrisy of contemporary society and culture.
D-Day as historic occasion
The Day D is one of several masterly works painted during World War II; images that present contemporary events as nightmarish visions. They are painted using an idiom inspired by history, its roots going back to the European painting of past centuries. As the title suggests, the specific occasion behind The Day D was the massacre that took place when the Allied Forces invaded Normandy in July 1944. In Freddie’s picture, the event becomes a mythological scene of Hell where deformed, faceless beings wrestle each other in a phantasmagorical landscape of tall, jagged cliffs.
Both inner vision and mirror
As in the works of the French symbolist Gustave Moreau or the Dutch 15th century painter Hieronymus Bosch – both of them important sources of inspiration to several Surrealists – Freddie’s picture plays a dual role: it is an inner vision and a mirror held up to the world. In this case, it mirrors man’s monstrous capacity for self-destruction.