Artwork Detail

The Iron Cross
American, 1877–1943
Oil on canvas
47 1/4 x 47 1/4 "
University purchase, Bixby Fund, 1952
WU 3840
The American modernist painter Marsden Hartley never experienced World War I as a soldier, yet he celebrated the German patriotism he witnessed during the early war years while living in Berlin. The Iron Cross, titled after the German military award won by the officer Karl von Freyburg, is one of a group of Hartley's paintings known as the War Motif series. In these works Hartley pays tribute to von Freyburg—a close friend of his—through stylized and abstracted symbols, the regalia of a soldier’s uniform, and other visual elements of military pageantry. A modern form of portraiture that does not depict the physical features or personality of the subject, this work commemorates von Freyburg through primary colors, geometric shapes, and planar patterns that recall the abstractions of both Cubism and Constructivism. [Permanent collection label, 2019]