Stunning war painting finds new home after being abandoned in a bog
Inspired by the war, a monumental painting created by a Mexican artist in Medyka is to be donated to a museum in Przemyśl after being left abandoned in a bog behind an aid tent at the border crossing.
Roberto Marquez painted the huge 8m x 2m cubist style painting, which features scenes from the destruction of Mariupol, at the beginning of March in Medyka as a protest against Russia's invasion and as a tribute to the refugees.
Taking him more than two weeks to complete, he then left it there to travel to Irpin near Kyiv to work on another piece that, in addition to one he painted in Warsaw's Central Station, forms part of a trio of war paintings authored by him.
In Medyka, the Leroy Merlin Foundation set up a tent on the spot where Marquez left his painting, which ended up lying abandoned in boggy ground. Although it was covered with tarpaulin, it was damaged by the early spring snow and rain.
Over a week ago, the painting was rediscovered and taken to the Union of Ukrainians headquarters in nearby Przemyśl.
Igor Horkov from the union said: “The colours have already partly disappeared due to the weather. In parts the painting is more blue than coloured.”
The painting is currently to be found standing in the stairwell of the building as there is no room in the union’s premises, which has been turned into a day care centre for children.
With the union overwhelmed dealing with the human tragedy of the war, the National Museum in the nearby city of Przemyśl has stepped in.
Błażej Szyszkowski from the museum’s art department said, “the painting is emotionally charged, and it is this quality that is its greatest value.”
“The artist had to travel halfway around the world to reach Poland. The circumstances, the social story, the conflict and the anti-war message, as well as the fact that he has now travelled from Medyka to Irpin make a huge impression. It is extremely moving," he added.
The museum says that it plans to hang the painting at the train station in Przemyśl, a location that has become a symbol due to the war in Ukraine; first, however, it will need a thorough restoration.
Marquez was moved by the fate of Mariupol and its people and likened it to Guernica, the Spanish city bombed to destruction by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy during the Spanish Civil War.
Speaking to Polish media, he said: “What happened there and in Guernica is very similar.”
His inspiration for the painting left in Medyka was Picasso’s work depicting the Guernica bombing, which is regarded by many as the world’s most moving anti-war painting.
Both Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ and Marquez’s work show the suffering of people and animals and the unimaginable violence and chaos caused by war. Both are painted in the cubist style. Marquez added the words "STOP WAR NOW" on both parts of his painting.
Katarzyna Winiarska from the Przemyśl branch of the National Museum, said that the painting consists of two compositional parts: “One, monochromatic, maintained in blue, repeats the composition of ‘Guernica’ by Pablo Picasso, the other is an artistic interpretation of contemporary events related to the war in Ukraine.”
Mariupol, a port city located on the Azov Sea, has been a strategic goal for Russia since its forces invaded Ukraine in February.
The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said last week that he believed up to 20,000 people may have been killed in Mariupol and an unknown number taken into Russian territory.
Roberto Marquez is a Mexican painter who was born in 1959 in Mexico City. He graduated from the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente. He later moved to the United States. His paintings depict dreamlike images from literature, Mexican history and the artist's own life.
His paintings can be found at the Tucson Museum of Art, the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey, the Hirschhorn Museum and the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington.