Stalingrad is by far the largest of Jorn’s paintings, and also the one he spent the longest time completing. It began as an abstract painting executed in bright colours, but was subsequently amended and reworked on numerous occasions.
Modern history painting
As the title suggests, the painting can be regarded as an example of modern history painting, relating the story of the World War II Battle of Stalingrad in the Soviet Union. The battle, which proved a turning point in the war, claimed approximately two million casualties in total.
Jorn’s friend, Umberto Gambetta, who helped him refurbish his property in Albisola, had taken part in the Battle of Stalingrad when he was a soldier in the Italian army. His eyewitness account of the horrors prompted Jorn to use the battle as the painting’s theme.
"In such a battle the human aspect predominates – that so many die on each side and one can no longer take sides. Courage and all heroism become overwhelmingly absurd. The picture began there," Jorn would later say.