The Disappeared

Irving Petlin

Irving Petlin studied art at the University of Chicago before attending Yale University to complete his graduate work with Josef Albers. He spent the early 1960s in France, exposed to the intellectual and artistic climate, where he developed two of his major influences, literature and politics. Upon returning to America, he founded the activist group Artists and Writers Against the Vietnam War and later participated in the Artists' Call Against U.S. Intervention in Central America. While Petlin, like his friend Leon Golub, often addresses issues of world conflict, politics is not the sole root of his work. He has shown a deep engagement with literature, working from the texts of writers as diverse as Bruno Shulz, Primo Levi, Paul Celan, Edmond Jabes, and the art historian Meyer Shapiro. "The Disappeared' is from a series of images that confront the atrocities of Argentina's oppressive military regime of the 1970s and early 1980s, a period of terror when thousands of citizens "disappeared." Petlin created a painting that is filled with foreboding imagery, from the traces of a horse and carriage that appear in the ghostly forest on the left side to the screaming figure who occupies the right foreground. In its Pointillist styling, this work also reveals Petlin's interest in another politically conscious artist, the nineteenth-century anarchist Georges Seurat.
Date of Birth
Oil on canvas
78 x 108 in. (198.1 x 274.3 cm.)
Accession #
Credit Line
Lewis S. Ware Fund and the Leo Model Foundation