The King's Academy

Opinion: Paintings of events that changed history

Throughout the course of history, the canvas has offered an unexpected yet poignant way to capture some of society’s most important events. Art lasts forever, the original intentions of the artists cannot be altered; even as decades pass, the original meaning of the piece will never waver. Thanks to millions of artists who have walked this Earth, we get a snapshot of important episodes in history, forever immortalized in the artistic medium.

“The Problem We All Live With” by Norman Rockwell, illustrates a 6-year-old African American girl named Ruby Bridges. Ruby Bridges lived in the midst of the Jim Crow Era, a time when most schools and public areas were segregated. Of course, in 1954 the Supreme Court implemented Brown v. Board of Education, which ended racial segregation in schools, according to HISTORY. However, most southern states resisted, and many Southerners rejected the law.

As one of six black students to pass the test, Ruby was admitted into an all-white elementary school. Yet due to growing outrage in the community, Ruby marched alone as she became the first person of color to attend a racially integrated school in the U.S., according to the National Women’s History Museum.

Every day she was escorted by four federal marshals and her mother. Many angry parents pulled their children out of school, a majority of teachers quit their jobs and all that was left was Ruby Bridges and the one teacher, Barbara Henry, who was willing to teach her, according to Debrah Michals.

Mass protests erupted in the south, many taunting Ruby as she walked to school every day. Her father lost his job and her mother was often denied entry into grocery stores. Yet, Ruby still attended school daily and showed bravery in the midst of the hatred swirling around her. In honor of her story, Norman Rockwell painted this portrait of her walking to school. Rockwell was an artist who is best known for his artworks depicting American life, according Britannica.

This painting properly illustrated what Black American children had to endure to seek an equal education. This was a major turning point in history, as Ruby Bridges inspired future generations of African Americans to start attending non-segregated schools and achieve higher education.

When Ruby withstood the racism at school, she sparked a revolution; a revolution to allow people of color to better themselves through schooling and became a role model for many more to come.

My God Help Me, Survive this Deadly Love” or “Fraternal Kiss” by Dmitri Vrubel, is a mural located on the East side of the Berlin wall. The actual photograph was taken in 1979 and depicts Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and East Germany President Erich Honecker locked in a deep kiss. Although the image might be jarring to some, a kiss was a formal way of greeting amongst socialist leaders and it demonstrated a diplomatic alliance between socialist countries. 

On Oct. 5, East Germany and the Soviet Union signed a deal agreeing to support each other for the next 10 years. The Soviet Union would send fuel and nuclear equipment, and in return, East Germany would provide machinery, ships and chemical equipment. (New York Times) 

This was seen as a threat to many Allied countries because the two nations united and a nuclear weapon was now at their doorstep. The nuclear equipment is no longer far removed in the Soviet Union but instead at the border of an ally country, Western Germany.

The treaty heightened the tension between the US and Russia and their respective allies. The result of the Cold War was the exponential increase in nuclear weapons — the tension forced the countries into an arms race because everyone wanted to deter the opposing side by outnumbering each other in nuclear power, according to Britannica. 

In addition, the location of the mural and the title adds to the satire, Dmitri Vrubel is not fond of the close relationship or “deadly love” between the two communist countries, indicated by Google Arts & Culture. His painting is about the mutual relationship between Russia and East Germany; however, it is painted ironically on the Berlin Wall, which is one of history’s great symbols of human and ideological division. 

Both artworks sear these political events into our collective memory. There have been many momentous events in history, but because of these two paintings, these two chapters have been immortalized in a way that properly captures their emotional significance.