Noel Counihan believed that art should have a social mission and that it could be used as a tool to expose political corruption, the hypocrisy of the church and the inequalities in society. The Nazi soldiers are shown from behind — faceless, as anonymous symbols of oppression. They are symbols for all military oppressors. The victims, an elderly bearded peasant who has been shot and a decapitated woman, are symbolic of the civilian human sacrifice throughout the ages. Counihan drew on a particular historical circumstance to make a comment which has a timeless and universal significance.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002