Heckel was stationed in Belgium with the Red Cross medical corps. This is one of several woodcuts in which he depicted the injured soldiers and sailors in his care. Its iconic format recalls the heroic soldiers in German propaganda posters, but instead of looking ahead with determination, this sailor turns away and lowers his eyes in resignation. His head is placed against a white cruciform shape, implying martyrdom.
Gallery label from German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse, March 27–July 11, 2011.