Bodies in a Grave, Belsen

Bodies in a Grave, Belsen
Alex Colville
Bodies in a Grave, Belsen

oil on canvas
76.3 x 101.6cm
CWM 19710261-2033

The gentle, dreamlike quality of this scene of emaciated corpses in a pit at Belsen belies the horror that was the more than 10,000 unburied bodies found there after its liberation by the British in 1945. Colville’s war art has been criticised for its “emotional sterility”. “In such situations,” he himself commented of his experiences at the concentration camp, “the body seems to have its own defence mechanism. My experience was voyeuristic. I was like someone who watches a sex film, but doesn’t have sex.”