In Flanders Fields

Rabbo Ploeger (1948 -), In Flanders Fields, oil on canvas. Photo: R. Ploeger, In Flanders Fields, (Ouderkerk aan de Amstel 2014). Photo: TES.

The Stefan Zweig Centre in Salzburg, Austria, organizes twelve conferences about the years preceding the First World War (August 1914-November 1918). The forthcoming conference deals with the The Great War from various perespectives. This European conflict resulted in the collapse of four Empires, the coming into being of new states, the rise of (world wide) Communism and Nazism, the Second World War and subsequently the Iron Curtain (Winston Churchill at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri on March 5, 1946.

The Berlin Wall became its symbol until 1989). The political consequences go beyond saying. The human suffering is a nine million fold tragedy however, counting those killed only. Many more millions were (severely) wounded, mentally and psychologically traumatized and physically exhausted.

Their experiences were the mental bases for the cruelties to come. New Countries, like Czecho-Slovakia or Jugoslavia and old countries like Poland (re) appeared on the map. The sufferings of those directly involved are more difficult to show.

British war poets were among those who put their feelings and experiences on paper.

John Alexander McCrea (1872-1918) was among them. He wrote:

“in Flanders Fields”

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row in row,

That mar our place, and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly,

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are dead, short days ago.

We lived felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved, and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe,

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, through poppies grow

In Flanders Fields.

The Dutch artist Rabbo Ploeger (pseudonym of Fred Kuiper (1948 – ) paints in the manner of figurative-expressionism mainly landscapes that are inspired on the former battle fields in south-west Belgium and the northern part of France (Ypres, Arras, Cambrai, The Somme, Reims and Verdun).

Although war poems by combatants are not replaceable by other means, the landscapes have a story to tell as well, the story of hell on earth amidst the ever returning poppies.