Martyr Hill, ca. 1933-1934, oil on canvas by O. Louis Guglielmi
The eerie loneliness of Louis Guglielmi's painting Martyr Hill seems surreal. Yet the Grand Army of the Republic Hall in Peterborough, New Hampshire, actually looks much as it does in this painting. Guglielmi, who spent many summers at the MacDowell artist colony in Peterborough, knew the place well. He altered the scene slightly but effectively to create an uneasy, melancholy mood reflecting the troubles of the time.
Sweeping diagonal lines draw the viewer's attention to the GAR Hall, with its spiky finials and a cannon aimed to menace the viewer. In fact, the cannon stands on the opposite side of the hall’s lawn. Guglielmi removed the windows from the hall’s side wall, creating the solid red parallelogram he placed very near the dark front wall of the house in the foreground. This causes the eye to lurch disconcertingly from foreground to background. Nothing in the painting casts a shadow—the buildings therefore look oddly insubstantial. The sculpted bronze soldier on the Civil War Memorial, his head bent in sorrow, underlines the lack of a living person in the scene. The Nubanusit River flows under a bridge and out toward the viewer, who is left with no place to stand.