This view looks down river toward St Paul's Cathedral. Painted during a hot October, the artist's vantage point was the roof of the Shell-Mex building on the Strand. The picture was painted entirely on the spot without preliminary studies of any kind.
At first Kokoschka gave the work the ironic title Alice in Wonderland, and only later added the word Anschluß, a clear reference to the annexation of Austria by the Naz1s.
The burning city portrayed in the background is Kokoschka’s native Vienna. Alice, symbolising truth, stands nude at the bottom-right of the foreground, fenced in by barbed wire. Directly beside her at the centre of the canvas are three male figures gesturing like the three wise monkeys of Buddhist lore: hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. The figures are wearing English, German and French steel helmets, respectively. This is a reference by Kokoschka to the role played by all three nations in deciding the fate of Vienna. They would rather not know the truth of the disaster they have failed to prevent in Kokoschka’s native city. On the left foreground, a woman is holding a baby wearing a gas mask. She looks over at the naked Alice in dismay.Anschluß – Alice in Wonderland can be read as stark criticism by the painter of the Allies’ reticent reaction to H1tler’s aggressive military programme.
War was completed in London, where Rego moved permanently in 1976. The artist has claimed that the work was a response to a photograph published in the Guardian newspaper in the early stages of the Iraq War, which began in March 2003. The photograph featured a screaming girl in a white dress running from an explosion, while a woman and a baby remain stationary behind her. Rego explained, ‘I thought I would do a picture about these children getting hurt, but I turned them into rabbits’ heads, like masks. It’s very difficult to do it with humans, it doesn’t get the same kind of feel at all. It seemed more real to transform them into creatures'.
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