Artworks that engender ideas of peace and tranquility take many forms. View some excellent examples in this text.

Some are iconic, others transitory and changing. One such icon of peace is a 19th-century painting by Edward Hicks. In The Peaceable Kingdom, Hicks describes the world with a visually literal translation of bible verse: "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and fatling together; and a little child shall lead them." Hicks' painting (of which there are many versions) includes the scene of English colonist William Penn's signing a treaty with the Lenni Lenape tribe of Native Americans.

In this photograph, a young woman participating in a peaceful demonstration in the 1960s holds a flower out to a military police officer. This small gesture is significant because it breaks the tension of the standoff between them and is akin to a universal symbol of peace: a dove carrying an olive branch.

Female Demonstrator Offering a Flower to a Military Police Officer, 1967

Female Demonstrator Offering a Flower to a Military Police Officer, 1967

Other artistic expressions of peace include large public monuments. One example is the Peace Arch in Blaine, Washington. Constructed in 1921, the stone arch straddles the international boundary between the two countries and commemorates the ongoing peaceful coexistence between Canada and the United States.

Related to this arch are many others collectively called Arches of Triumph. These arches stretch through art history since Roman times. They signify peace through the idea of military victory and national pride. The Arc de Triomphe in Paris is perhaps the most famous. Built in the first half of the 19th century, the arch stands as a victory monument to all French soldiers who fought in the Napoleonic Wars and, since then, has become an icon of French victory over aggression and war. At 162 feet high, its massive bulk and beautiful proportions are a testament to permanence.

Arnold C. Buchanan-Hermit, 'The Peace Arch', Blaine, Washington, 1921. 67 feet high

The Peace Arch, 1921, Blaine, Washington, 67' high

'Arc de Triomphe', inaugurated 1836, Paris France

Arc de Triomphe, inaugurated 1836, Paris, France

A more contemporary example of peace, and one that is etched into popular culture, is the graphic Peace Symbol, designed by Gerald Holtom in 1958 for use in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. It is a universal signifier of peace and can be found on flags, buttons, banners, and clothing. The symbol is incorporated on the Lennon Wall, a public space in the city of Prague in the Czech Republic dedicated to the memory of John Lennon, the late member of the Beatles rock band and an activist for peace. In the 1980s, Czech youths tagged graffiti on the wall as an outlet for their frustration against the Communist regime in power. One of Lennon's best-known songs about peace and love is titled Imagine.

Gerald Holtom, 'Peace Symbol', 1958

Peace Symbol, 1958

Juliano Mattos, 'Graffiti on the Lennon Wall', Prague, Czech Republic

Graffiti on the Lennon Wall, Prague, Czech Republic

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Source: Christopher Gildow,
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Last modified: Wednesday, February 14, 2024, 4:13 PM